Cone Global Research

global_pdf_2015-22015 Cone Communications/Ebiquity Global CSR Study

Consistent with previous years, Canadian citizens’ beliefs about company involvement in social and environmental issues strongly align with the global average, signaling a middling approach to CSR. Yet, nuances in the data reveal the unique qualities of the Canadian outlook.

Canadians have high expectations of companies to be responsible and consider CSR commitments when making a variety of decisions. They have a solid understanding of the messages companies use to talk about efforts and a stronger than average understanding of CSR terms. However, this group seems to be less vocal over the past several years as their propensity to voice opinions directly to companies continues to decline (66% vs. 72% global average, with a steady decrease from 75% in 2011). But don’t mistake this drop as lack of interest to engage. Canadian citizens aren’t afraid to show their approval of or dissatisfaction with company CSR behavior in other ways. Judiciously, Canada is the country most likely to dole out rewards or punishments in equal measure based on company actions (50% vs. 40% global average).

Although Canadian citizens are keeping a keen eye on companies, they are not directly feeling the impact of CSR efforts. In fact, nine-in-10 (89%) believe companies could do a better job showing how efforts are relevant to them. Canadians are also one of the more cynical groups, second only to the United Kingdom, in believing companies have made a significant impact on issues (19% vs. 27% global average). Despite seeking out responsible products whenever possible, they are less apt to believe their own purchases make a significant impact (22% vs. 29% global average).

Canadian citizens show enthusiasm for making a difference in other, more personal ways. This is one of the most likely countries to have donated (70% vs. 61% global average) and volunteered (46% vs. 40% global average) in the past 12 months, and people stand ready to make personal sacrifices to address social or environmental issues, such as their readiness to consume less to protect natural resources (82% vs. 81% global average). One area where they are not willing to concede is quality, as Canadians are less likely than their global counterparts to compromise the quality of the products they buy for the greater good (50% vs. 57% global average).

Although Canadian citizens are putting their own skin in the game to address social or environmental issues, they are less likely to see the impact from company efforts or how their purchases translate into CSR progress. To reach this audience, companies must help them understand how CSR commitments are relevant to their everyday lives and Canadian consumers will reward through product purchase, speaking positively about efforts and taking accountability in their own lives.

5 Defining Insights

Perception of Individual Impact Less apt to believe their own purchases make a significant impact (22% vs. 29% global average)
Perception of Corporate Impact Less likely to see a significant corporate impact on issues (19% vs. 27% global average)
Reported Behavior One of the most likely countries to have donated (70% vs. 61% global average) and volunteered (46% vs. 40% global average) in the past 12 months; significant decrease in reported purchase (59% vs. 79% in 2011)
Willingness to Participate Less likely to voice opinions directly to companies (66% vs. 72% global average, decreased from 75% in 2011)
Reward vs. Punish Most likely to equally reward and punish companies for their CSR efforts (50% vs. 40% global average)


2013 Cone Communications/ Echo Global CSR Study

Over ten thousand adults in 10 countries around the world make one thing abundantly clear in this study: the question is not whether companies will engage in corporate social responsibility, but how they will create real and meaningful impact. Corporate social responsibility is no longer an option — it is emphatically and indisputably a must-do.

As in 2011, Canada once again mirrors the collective global point of view on corporate social responsibility. In almost every category, consumers’ beliefs about CSR are in line with the global average — suggesting a very practical approach to social and environmental issues, as well as the role of corporations and citizens in addressing them. This universal view makes any variances even more compelling.

As a natural resources-based economy, it is not surprising Canadians are more likely than their global peers to want companies to change the way they operate to drive impact on social and environmental issues (35% vs. 30% globally); however, they do not put the full weight of responsible actions solely on corporate shoulders. They want to play a role in solving critical issues, and are showing up to do so in very personal ways. With local giving and volunteering strong components of the community fabric, Canadians are more likely than the global average to have donated (79% vs. 60% globally) or volunteered (51% vs. 37% globally) in the past 12 months.

Despite this congenial culture, Canadians are skeptical about corporate impact and transparency. Only 14 percent states companies have made a significant impact on social and environmental issues (vs. 22% globally) and 89 percent believes companies only communicate positive information and withhold the negative. That cynicism is not the result of unrealistic expectations. In fact, Canadians are slightly more tolerant of imperfections than their global peers (89% vs. 85% globally). Canadians’ cautious approach to CSR is also reflected in how they get their information. Canadians are less likely to turn to social media to learn about or engage with companies’ CSR efforts (50% vs. 62% globally), holding steady to traditional channels for those communications, including product labels, media and advertising.

Role of Consumer:  Buy responsible products if convenient (39%)
Desired Return:  Positive impact on society or the environment (41%)
Highest Reported Behavior:  Made a donation (79%)
Significant Individual/Corporate Impact: Individuals (21%) / Corporate (14%)
Preferred Communications Channel: Product/package (22%) Use of social media: Sharing positive information (28%) / learning more (27%)

Implication for Canadian Companies: Marked lack of government involvement in CSR means companies are in the driver’s seat when it comes to making progress on social and environmental issues. Industry coalitions and partnerships will propel progress and hedge risks associated with going it alone. Consumers also want to be engaged in making change, and they’ll respond to corporate calls-to-actions — but only if they feel real impact will result. To rally their support, companies must clearly communicate impact and progress in a traditional mix of channels.