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RESEARCH BRIEF: Young consumers expect more information about CSR, from more channels, and are more likely to be influenced by corporate communications than older audiences


Takeaway: Young consumers are interested in and expect more explicit CSR communication. They favor communication that is personally relevant and factually based, and they are more likely to believe communications claims. Rather than associating CSR with companies doing good or doing what’s right, they may see it as a matter of good practice.

Young consumers have different media habits than older consumers, which suggests changes in the way companies communicate to them about CSR. With a better understanding of young consumers’ perceptions of, and attitudes toward, corporate citizenship, as well as their expectations of corporations, companies can better plan and execute communications aimed at this audience.

Researchers used an online survey to explore young people's expectations, attitudes and evaluations of CSR. It looked at: awareness, importance, responsibility, initiatives, communication/media, communication/rhetoric, credibility, perception of motive, and significance. The findings are based on responses from 82 Danish students, ages 18 to 30.

Key findings

  • The majority of respondents think it is important that companies engage in CSR, but they are not aware that companies actually do so. They want more CSR information than they are currently getting, but are not willing to actively seek it out.
  • Respondents attach more importance to what is closest to them either physically or personally (environment, employees and local community vs. natural disasters and people from other countries).
  • For companies to engage with consumers through CSR communication, they should clearly illustrate why particular CSR efforts are of importance to the consumers, and communicate this through multiple channels.
  • Respondents primarily notice CSR communication on packaging, on television, and on websites.
  • When asked why companies engage in CSR, 70 percent of consumers believe that companies do so to gain profits; 91 percent think it is to improve corporate image, 76 percent believe it is done to increase competitive advantage, 55 percent think companies do so for moral reasons
  • Rather than being skeptical about explicit communications, respondents say that CSR increases corporate credibility, and that the longer companies have been engaging in CSR, the more credible they are.
  • Even when consumers think that companies are engaging in CSR for selfish reasons, the overall evaluation of such activities is positive.
  • Rather than associating CSR with morals and ethics, young consumers may see it as a matter of corporate competence. A concern with morality thus seems to be exceeded by a concern with ability.

If citing, please refer to the original article: “Consumer-oriented CSR communication: Focusing on ability or morality”, Corporate Communications: An International Journal, 2012, Issue: 1, Line Schmeltz, Aarhus School of Business and Social Sciences, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark

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