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U.S. Consumers Need to Hear From Socially Responsible Retailers

Jewelers Should Market 'Eco-friendly' and 'Local'

Apr 9, 2015 12:49 PM   By Jeff Miller
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RAPAPORT... The third annual Conscious Consumer Spending Index, which measures  U.S. consumers' appetite for corporate social responsibility, found that 32 percent of shoppers intend to spend more with socially responsible companies this year. The percentage is up from 30 percent in 2014 and 29 percent in 2013, according to Good.Must.Grow., which compiles the index.

Top terms that resonate with consumers included "organic,"  "green" and "eco-friendly" (with each term preferred by 82 percent of consumers), "local" (79 percent), "natural" (74 percent) and "sustainable" (71 percent). But Good.Must.Grow. found that "local" is the most likely factor to influence a consumer's purchasing decision.

Sixty-four percent of U.S. consumers believed it was important to purchase products or services from  a socially responsible company, a  four-percentage point jump from 2013.  Still, Good.Must.Grow. concluded that the data revealed that only 73 percent of those who planned to spend more on socially responsible firms' product  followed through, whereas 76 percent followed through in 2013.

One reason, the group observed, is that knowledge gaps derail consumers who strive to meet this goal. In the survey, for instance,  46 percent of shoppers admitted that they didn't know where to find socially responsible products and services.

“Slow and steady may win some races, but if you look at the condition of the world around us, we are in a sprint, not a marathon,” said Heath Shackleford, the founder of Good.Must.Grow. “So, while I think we can be excited to see consistent and continued growth in socially responsible behavior, we have to act with urgency to remove obstacles and speed up our progress.”

The company compiled responses to the question, “Name one company or organization that is socially responsible.” Of the 20 top retailers, only three that sell jewelry made the list:  Walmart ranked at number eight, Target at number 10 and Costco at number 11. But 28 percent of consumers failed to name even one socially responsible company, the study noted.  In determining which firms were responsible, consumers weighed how companies treat their employees, impact the  environment and offer transparency.
"While consumers are more interested than ever in socially responsible products and services, they are doing less to proactively seek them out. When providing respondents with a list of various methods that can be used to determine if a company is socially responsible, the Index findings indicate a slight decline (or no change) in seven out of eight research tactics over the last three years," Shackleford said.

One solution is that a collective response from socially conscious companies can turn consumer desire from evolution into a revolution, opined Shackleford. “Better world businesses have to find ways to more effectively connect with individuals who want to do more good. At the same time, individuals who claim to be socially responsible need to take more responsibility for seeking out organizations that are committed to social impact.”

The study was conducted in partnership with Supportive Research Solutions and What They Think Research.

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Tags: consumer, Costco, good.must.grow., intentions, Jeff Miller, Jewelry, retail, social responsibility, spending, target, Walmart
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