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New Research: Americans Demand Authenticity in Corporate Citizenship

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NEW YORK—Over 75 percent of Americans think companies can be more talk than action when it comes to supporting social issues, according to Changing Our World’s latest report, “The Authenticity Opportunity.” The report, based on a new study of Americans aged 18 to 65, explores people’s perceptions of and expectations for authenticity in corporate citizenship. As more and more companies push their support for social issues into the spotlight, the study finds that many Americans are skeptical that companies do what they say, and that consumers and employees will reserve their loyalty for those companies which they believe are genuinely committed to making a difference.

Most Americans (70 percent) still believe companies should support social issues and causes, but the research reveals the importance of authentic engagement with social issues. Nearly 70 percent of people will endorse a company that they believe is genuinely committed to making a difference in society, while 67 percent will speak out against a company they don’t believe is authentic in its actions.

“In an age where transparency and activism are the norm, companies face an incredible level of scrutiny in their actions, values and contributions to society,” says Brian Crimmins, CEO, Changing Our World. “Our research shows companies can’t afford to take a superficial approach to building a better world.”

Stakeholders’ trust and loyalty is on the line. Consumers will boycott (61 percent) and speak out against (67 percent) a company that is inauthentic in its citizenship efforts. Younger generations, specifically, prioritize a company’s social commitments when searching for a new job.

Consumers Will Reward Authenticity

On the other hand, consumers and employees are eager to reward companies for authentic citizenship efforts. More than seven in ten people will purchase a company’s products over those of a competitor based on the company’s authentic commitment to social issues. When employees believe their own employer is genuine in its efforts, nearly 75 percent will recommend the company as a good place to work, and nearly 60 percent will put in extra effort on the job.

“The data shows a cautionary tale, but also presents a tremendous opportunity for companies to get ahead by embracing an authentic approach to supporting causes and communities,” says Crimmins.

There is clear value in authentic corporate engagement with social issues, but that authenticity must be earned. The research shows agreement—across gender and age groups—on what an authentic approach means. Americans expect companies to be “all in” for the causes they support by maximizing and strategically leveraging their assets and adopting a strategy that is designed for longevity. And when a company’s good work leads to endorsement from third party advocates such as nonprofit organizations, consumers are much more likely to buy in.

“As corporate citizenship professionals, we’ve observed over the years how poorly designed or clearly self-serving efforts can backfire on a company. People are savvy and won’t be fooled by splashy, short-term campaigns that lack substance,” says Mandy Ryan, Managing Director, Changing Our World. “However, we know that immense social and business impact can be made when companies get it right. We are proud to give citizenship practitioners the quantitative backing to affirm their citizenship strategy or obtain buy-in to adopt a more authentic approach.”

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