Shoppers heighten emphasis on CSR in China

11 February 2010

BEIJING: Most Chinese consumers would prefer to buy brands from socially responsible companies, according to a new study of shopper preferences in the FMCG and automotive sectors. 

A survey of 3,000 people in the country by Ruder Finn, the PR consultancy, and Tsinghua University found that 73% would rather purchase goods from firms with strong ethical credentials.

Half of respondents agreed the performance of domestic companies in these industries was "average" at present where CSR was concerned, while just one third gave them a favourable rating.

Moreover, multinational corporations were viewed as leading their local counterparts in this field by the vast majority of contributors to the poll.

Professor Zhao Shuguang, head of the Tsinghua Media Survey Lab, said "foreign companies have advantages over domestic companies in terms of management, technology, capital and resource allocation."

"There is a long way to go for Chinese companies to catch up with foreign companies in terms of CSR performance."

Product safety was named as the most important issue for businesses to address by the panel, following on from high-profile events like the sale of large amounts of unsafe baby milk in 2008.

Positive environmental activity was in second place on this measure, with the perceived integrity of company management in third.

At the other end of the spectrum, members of the public displayed much less interest in matters related to intellectual property, fair competition and the treatment of employees.

Jean-Michel Dumont, the chairman of Ruder Finn Asia, said "consumers are demanding healthy and safe products, and are calling for a trustable market environment."

"This in fact is the most fundamental part of CSR. Therefore, it is logical to find product safety at the top of consumers' priorities and management honesty in third position."

Overall, Procter & Gamble, the maker of Tide and Pampers, and Coca-Cola, the soft drinks giant, were the two FMCG companies seen as leading the way in implementing responsible business practices.

Volkswagen, the German carmaker, and First Automotive Works, which has partnered with firms like Toyota and Mazda, took on this role among the automakers.

More broadly, it appears that Chinese food and beverage companies were held as being trustworthy by consumers, with Coca-Cola and PepsiCo the only foreign members of the top ten in this category.

However, among the personal care specialists, Longliqi and Jahwa were the sole operators headquartered in the world's most populous nation to receive such complimentary feedback.

Among the report's other findings were that concern for almost all aspects of corporate social responsibility increased among people who were more highly educated.

Data sourced from Marketing Interactive/Everything PR; additional content by Warc staff