NEW YORK: More than half of consumers around the world say they are prepared to pay more for socially responsible brands, a new study has said.

The Nielsen Global Survey on Corporate Social Responsibility polled 30,000 online consumers in 60 countries to understand consumer attitudes towards brands and sustainable practices. It found that 55% of respondents were willing to spend more on products and services provided by companies committed to positive social and environmental impact, up from 45% in 2011.

This trend was strongest in emerging markets, with 64% of online respondents in Asia-Pacific, and 63% in both Latin America and the Middle East/Africa, ready to buy socially responsible brands. But those figures dropped significantly in the developed markets of North America (42%) and Europe (40%).

Globally, more than half (52%) claimed to have bought at least one product or service in the past six months from a socially responsible company. Once again, consumers in Latin America (65%), Asia-Pacific (59%) and Middle East/Africa (59%) led the way with just four in ten respondents in North America and Europe having made such a purchase.

"Consumers around the world are saying loud and clear that a brand's social purpose is among the factors that influence purchase decisions," said Amy Fenton, global leader of public development and sustainability, Nielsen. "Now the focus is on determining how your brand can effectively create shared value by marrying the appropriate social cause and consumer segments."

Rather than simply rely on consumer claims, Nielsen also reviewed retail sales data for a cross-section of both consumable and non-consumable categories across 20 brands in nine countries. These brands either included sustainability claims on packaging or actively promoted their sustainability actions through marketing efforts.

The results showed an average annual sales increase of 2% for products with sustainability claims on the packaging and a lift of 5% for products that promoted sustainability actions through marketing programs. A review of 14 other brands without sustainability claims or marketing showed a sales rise of only 1%.

A separate study by Natural Marketing Institute, a Nielsen strategic business collaborator, identified a "sustainable mainstream" population who typically choose products from sustainable sources over other conventional products and who are more likely to buy products repeatedly from a company if they know the company is mindful of its impact on the environment and society.

Data sourced from Business Wire; additional content by Warc staff