Enlisting Consumer Support for Social causes

The key, therefore, lies in mobilizing market participants, the most potent being the consumer and enhancing awareness amongst them so as to empower their decisions. An organization or business entity needs to ramp up consumer education substantially, so that they are made aware of the power they possess to transform society and bring in enduring social change. Government, Industry and Civil Society will need to join hands in this endeavor to give it more body, scope and reach.

Most professional and socially responsible companies made a beginning in this direction by creating a high visibility ‘cause marketing’ campaign involving their popular brands and highlighted the link with some of their CSR initiatives. They have taken it as their prime responsibility to educate the consumers that with every purchase of those brands, they would, in effect, be contributing to the Social Forestry and Watershed initiatives of the company. A Company’s ‘Classmate’ brand contributes significantly towards the education of the underprivileged by earmarking portion of its proceeds for this cause. School children respond by actually preferring ‘Classmate’ product not only for their superior quality, but also for their association with a noble cause. Some of these companies are committed to enhancing these awareness campaigns and continuously make the consumer aware of the choice that she possesses to support such social programs by making informed buying decisions.

It is heartening to note that worldwide consumers are already demonstrating their preference for socially responsible products and services. In 2006, an estimated €1.6 billion worth of Fair trade products were sold across the world, growing annually by almost 50%. This independent consumer certification mark guarantees that disadvantaged producers are getting a better deal. Today, more than 7 million people farmers, workers and their families across 59 developing countries benefit from the international Fair Trade System. In some cases consumers have also demonstrated that they are willing to pay more for a product or service if it contributes to social good. These are certainly welcome developments although they occupy, as of now, a small proportion of global trade. If these individual efforts of consumers get escalated into collective action, they will certainly have distinct impact on corporate thinking and action.

With concerted action from policy makers and civil society a significance force can be created by enlightened consumer franchise to spur industry into innovation thinking for social action.

India’s young demographic profile will also support this trend. In late 2006, a Cone Millennial Cause Study in the US found that amongst the youth, nearly nine out of ten surveyed stated that they were likely or very likely to switch from one brand to another (price and quality being equal) if the second brand was associated with a good causes. This goes to indicate that with greater awareness through education and exposure, the future generation will tend to exercise a ‘vote’ for companies with higher social accountability. This is now getting to be a worldwide trend, and with increasing connectivity through the Internet, widespread media and new tools for communication.