WASHINGTON, DC: Johnson & Johnson, Google and Subway are among the brands that US consumers regard as being the most socially responsible, according to a study by Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates, Landor and Burson Marsteller.

The Corporate Citizenship Study 2009 was based on an online survey of 1,001 adults in the US, and covered 69 major brands in industries ranging from the food and beverage sectors to financial services and entertainment.

According to this research, most Americans "plan to purchase the same or more products and services from socially responsible companies" in the future, despite the onset of the recession.

In terms of more specific trends impacting buyer behaviour, the fact that a brand was seen as being "trustworthy" assumed a greater degree of importance among consumers than product quality or value.

Similarly, the companies and brands that "provide a consistent citizenship message receive the most recognition" from the US public for their CSR efforts.

Overall, the poll found that 75% of "people are willing to pay more for products from socially responsible companies."

More than half of participants also said they were prepared to spend 6% or more over the "normal" category price for goods fitting this description.

Some 40% of the panel further argued that they would be "willing to take a pay cut to work for a socially responsible company", with 15% ready to reduce their salary by 6% or more to do so.

With regard to specific firms admired by respondents for their CSR policies, however, the survey revealed that "almost no companies have any profile" when it comes to being seen as socially responsible.

Johnson & Johnson, in first place in consumers' CSR rankings, received an index score of 107, followed by Google with 101, and Subway, Microsoft and General Mills, all of which were on 96 points.

Procter & Gamble, on 94, Kraft, on 90 and Unilever's beauty brand Dove, on 87, also performed comparatively strongly, while Walt Disney and Target scored 81 and 78 points respectively.

However, these results differed when it came to identifying "top of mind brands", defined as the "first company that comes to mind when you think of the most 'socially responsible' brand today."

Wal-Mart was the best-performing property on this measure, followed by Data sourced from Environmental Leader/Burson Marsteller; additional content by WARC staff