Trust and consumer education are key to CSR communication

According to a BBC study, 80 percent of consumers worldwide agree that a commitment to sustainability increases a brand's value. Consumers expect action from brands, not empty promises about sustainability. They are also becoming more aware of their choices and the expectations and standards they place on brands.

To investigate the shift in consumer sentiment, BBC Global News conducted two surveys. The aim was to gain insights into how consumers around the world really feel about sustainability. The focus was on the three different sectors "automotive", "technology" and "finance".

The results show that consumers pay attention not only to what a company says, but also to what it does:

  • 80 percent believe that a clear commitment to sustainability increases the value of a brand.
  • 78 percent state that sustainable actions and commitments are an important criterion when making purchasing decisions.
  • 67 percent are willing to pay more for brands that are committed to sustainability and environmentally friendly practices.
  • Fifty-six percent say they would stop buying a product they have been loyal to if they found it did not stand for sustainability.

On average, across the 27 brands surveyed across three sectors, about half of all consumers said they were unaware of the brand's sustainability - with the financial sector leading by a wide margin with 65 percent of all consumers unaware of financial brands' sustainability initiatives.

Education is the be-all and end-all

The study shows that consumers believe it is important that all brands' sustainability efforts include education and research. Eighty-three percent of consumers believe brands should invest in educating consumers about the importance of sustainability, and 82 percent agree that brands should fund research into sustainable practices.

Trust as an important asset

The study shows that for consumers around the world, trust in brands remains the most important association with a brand. The value is particularly high in the automotive and technology sectors with 88 percent and 82 percent respectively, while the financial sector reaches 60 percent.

Interviews as a promising means of communication

According to the study, 66 percent of respondents said interviews with an international news partner were the most influential way for consumers to learn about a brand's corporate social responsibility, followed by branded content in a high-value environment (35 percent). These are techniques that brands can use to communicate their sustainability message to consumers on a large scale.

"Sustainability is becoming increasingly important to consumers in their purchasing decisions, but this research shows that there is a gap between a brand's sustainability actions and consumer awareness," said Lori Suchcicki, Senior Vice President Commercial Partnerships EMEA at BBC Global News. "To maintain customer loyalty and attract new customers, this gap must be closed by developing an authentic and transparent story. The BBC's experienced storytellers have a long history of closing this gap by engaging global audiences through creative and emotional brand campaigns."

Willingness to pay more for sustainability exists

The study results show how important a brand's sustainability credentials are to consumers, and that they are willing to put their money where their mouth is to make their feelings known. If brands want to retain the loyalty of their customers, they must clearly express their commitment to implementing measures. Those that fail to do so expose themselves to criticism. It is therefore crucial that brands shape their story and communicate their message in a transparent and authentic way.

BBC: CSR with Future Planet

In response to growing audience interest in the topic of sustainability, BBC launched Future Planet in 2020, a platform for in-depth, fact-based reporting on potential solutions to pressing environmental problems around the world. The online publication focused exclusively on climate change, aiming to be as carbon-free as possible.

For the BBC Global Minds Sustainability Surveys two surveys were conducted, each with 4,526 (wave 1) 2,153 (wave 2) respondents. The BBC Brand Tracker includes 10,441 international consumers between the ages of 18 and 65 who know and would consider a brand.

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