NEW YORK: The proportion of consumers willing to pay more for goods and services from companies engaged in corporate social responsibility has increased to 50% globally, according to new research.

The study from market researchers Nielsen also found that 43% of global respondents have actually spent more on products and services from companies that have implemented programmes to give back to society.

That represents just 7% fewer than those expressing willingness to do so and comes amidst signs of a rising trend of goodwill towards socially responsible brands.

The Nielsen Global Survey on Corporate Social Responsibility was conducted between February and March 2013 and surveyed more than 29,000 online consumers in 58 countries.

It found that willingness to pay more from socially responsible firms rose 5 points since 2011 and increased in 74% of the countries polled.

Increases were measured across both sexes and all age groups with respondents aged 30 and under emerging as the most likely to spend more. The rate among consumers aged 40-44 also increased to 50% from 38% in 2011.

Nic Covey, vice president of corporate social responsibility at Nielsen, said the rapid change in sentiment among middle-aged consumers provided opportunities for brands, which meant they could now confidently focus their purpose-messaging on younger and older consumers alike.

Marked regional differences also emerged. Three-quarters of consumers in India and over two-thirds in Thailand and the Philippines said they would pay more, but only 36% of respondents in Europe said they would do so.

Some markets – again, largely in Europe – also recorded a mismatch between those indicating a willingness to spend more and those who actually do so. For example, 50% of Slovaks said they would be willing to pay more, but only 22% actually do.

Likewise, similar disparities were recorded in Hong Kong, Peru and Bulgaria, leading Nic Covey to suggest these markets could be "uniquely ripe for cause-marketing programmes".

He said: "Today, the question is not whether consumers care about social impact, but which ones, how much and how to appeal to them. The answer isn't necessarily a traditional cause-marketing campaign."

Data sourced from Nielsen; additional content by Warc staff