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Report: Business as Responsible as Government for Driving Social Change

The more powerful corporations become, the more obligated they are to behave ethically and with the public interest in mind, according to 73 percent of respondents in a new global consumer survey.

In fact, according to a new Prosumer Report from Havas Worldwide, more than two-thirds (68%) say businesses bear as much responsibility as governments for driving positive social change, and 55 percent think corporations are better positioned 
than governments to combat climate change. 

Seventy-six percent want corporations and government to work together to make the world a better place, and sixty-one percent would like their favorite brands to play a bigger role in their local 

“We’re entering the age of damage, where social media has empowered people to hold businesses accountable,” said David Jones, global CEO of Havas. “As corporations have grown in size and power, people are expecting more from them. They want big business in general — and their brand partners in particular — to play a role in driving positive change and to work toward the greater good rather than acting solely on the basis of their own agendas. Consumers are rewarding those businesses that take the lead and punishing those that don’t.” 

The survey, Communities and Citizenship: Redesigned for a New World, was conducted online among more than 10,000 adults in 31 countries. Other notable findings include:

  • When asked: “Who has the most power to effect change today?,” 35 percent of respondents cited social media-empowered citizens as the greatest agent of change, while 25 percent picked “government/politicians,” 24 percent said “what we consume,” and 16 percent chose “corporations and companies.”
  • Around half the sample (48%) believe they have more influence on society as consumers than they do as voters, while only 14 percent disagree (the remainder being neutral).
  • Only 39 percent say they have moderate or a lot of faith in their national governments, while only slightly more (42%) have faith in their local governments.
  • Most (56%) believe that a person who recycles regularly is a better citizen than someone who votes in every election but doesn’t make an effort to reduce his or her waste. 

“What we’re seeing is a shift away from traditional political activity in favor of social change driven by governments, citizen-consumers, and corporations working together,” said Marianne Hurstel, vice president, Havas Worldwide’s BETC and global chief strategy officer, Havas Worldwide.

“This is changing the relationship between consumers and brands, as people increasingly look to big business to act as a sort of super-citizen, advancing societal interests while also taking care to cause no harm — to our shared environment, to employees and other stakeholders, and to the broader community. It’s an opportunity for businesses to play a much more essential role in people’s lives,” Hurstel added.

In related news, environmental concerns are compelling businesses to shift their primary focus from serving customers to addressing sustainability, according to a new academic paper on information systems.

@Bart_King is a freelance writer and communications consultant.

Bart King is the principal and founder of New Growth Communications, a network of affiliated content producers and strategists serving clients in the emerging green economy. Follow him @bart_king and on LinkedIn.

[Read more about Bart King]

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