Survey Says Effective Corporate Responsibility is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

If You Want to Impact Consumers, Long-Term Commitment to a Cause is the Key

16 Nov, 2015, 08:30 ET from Aflac

COLUMBUS, Ga., Nov. 16, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is most effective when associated with a long term commitment compared to companies reacting to current events. According to the first Aflac CSR Survey (ACSR), conducted in August and September, 2015, 81 percent of respondents said they are more likely to purchase from corporations that are active in philanthropy regularly, such as establishing a defined philanthropic cause, as opposed to corporate giving only during times of need.

"Companies that give during tragedies or other current events are helping the community and we not only applaud that, but we take part in such charitable giving because it is the right thing to do," Aflac Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications Catherine Blades said.  "But in a purely business sense, our study shows that consumers are most incentivized by a sustained cause that demonstrates a long-term commitment."

In August and September of 2015, Aflac, the leading provider of voluntary insurance in the United States, conducted the first online Aflac Corporate Social Responsibility (ACSR) study consisting of more than 6,000 individuals surveyed by Lightspeed GMI, an award-winning global digital data collection enterprise.  The company conducted the study to generate scientific data to support or refute general notions that currently exist in the CSAR space about what can move the needle for consumers and investors.

The new survey also found that CSR and philanthropy are more top of mind on a daily basis for millennials than those over 35 years of age. Surprisingly, older generations, typically known for their philanthropic work and activism (i.e. baby boomers, Gen Xers), don't share the same sentiment toward CSR.

Overall, perspective on CSR varies between demographics and stages of life. For example, more millennials (49 percent) than non-millennials (36 percent) would donate a large portion of their salary to a cause that has affected them or a loved one and live modestly. When asked the same question, more parents (51 percent) than non-parents (32 percent) would do the same.

Similar results supported the notion that millennials and parents are more CSR conscious, including:

  • Millennials (66 percent) and parents (69 percent) say they are likely to invest in a company well-known for its CSR program compared to non-millennials (48 percent) and non-parents (40 percent).
  • Millennials (63 percent) and parents (67 percent) are more trusting when asked if they feel corporations are genuine in their CSR platforms than non-millennials (55 percent) and non-parents (49 percent).
  • Millennials and parents (both 62 percent) believe companies are trustworthy in their philanthropic efforts on social media, compared to non-millennials (40 percent) and non-parents (34 percent).
  • Millennials (69 percent) and parents (71 percent) ranked CSR as a top priority with regard to their willingness to engage on a company's social media channels compared to non-millennials (46 percent) and non-parents (40 percent).

"The patterns we are seeing in our inaugural ACSR study show how lifestyle changes can impact perspective in ways similar to factors like age and gender," Blades said. "For instance, data shows that parents tend to view CSR and philanthropy through the eyes of their children and have views similar to younger people. Data like this can help inform a company's approach to creating and maintain an effective CSR philosophy."

Over the past 20 years, Aflac has donated more than $100 million to the fight against childhood cancer through its Duckprints program, making the company a leader in successful CSR. Giving back is at the core of Aflac's operations and is a key tenant crucial to overall success. The survey findings support this approach.

All in all, consumers (86 percent) favor companies they believe to be ethical. But it goes far beyond just looking ethical. Four out of five respondents (81 percent) said they were more likely to buy from a company whose philanthropic work was done consistently, year-round – rather than those that activate only in times of need. Further, 92 percent of millennials say they are more likely to purchase from companies they perceive as ethical. 

"We operate in an ecosystem that includes 80 million millennials with an annual purchasing power of $200 billion who, due in part to having been informed by events like the Enron collapse, banking scandals, and recession, view CSR in a drastically different way than previous generations," Blades said. "Our survey makes it clear: Successful companies will pay attention not only to the emerging needs of millennials, but the different way in which they view the world. To them, who you are is as important, if not more important, than the products you produce."

Other interesting statistics:

  • 28 percent of consumers think of Oprah Winfrey first when it comes to philanthropic work.
  • Only 3 percent of consumers think of Madonna when it comes to philanthropic work.
  • 30 percent of consumers would enlist Angelina Jolie to help them raise funds for a charity they cared about.
  • Only 2 percent of consumers would enlist Kim Kardashian to help them raise funds for a charity they cared about.
  • When it comes to important philanthropic causes, consumers rank Children's Health at No. 1.
  • 60 percent of U.S. consumers ranked the Northeast as the most generous region, and 77 percent ranked the Southwest as the least generous.

View more information about the Aflac Corporate Social Responsibility Survey at www.aflac.com/acsr.

Survey Methodology:
Research findings are based on a survey fielded in the United States between Aug. 18 and Sept. 2, 2015. For this survey, 6,000 respondents (2,000 nationally representative and 400 within each of the top-10 DMAs) were asked about their thoughts regarding various aspects of corporate social responsibility. The study also surveyed 355 investment professionals about how corporate social responsibility impacts their decisions. The survey was completed through Lightspeed GMI's Global Test Market double opted-in panelists who have registered to participate in online surveys.

About Aflac:
When a policyholder gets sick or hurt, Aflac pays cash benefits fast. For nearly six decades, Aflac insurance policies have given policyholders the opportunity to focus on recovery, not financial stress. In the United States, Aflac is the leading provider of voluntary insurance at the work site. Through its trailblazing One Day PaySM initiative, Aflac U.S. can receive, process, approve and disburse payment for eligible claims in one business day. In Japan, Aflac is a leading provider of medical and cancer insurance and insures 1 in 4 households. Aflac individual and group insurance products help provide protection to more than 50 million people worldwide. For nine consecutive years, Aflac has been recognized by Ethisphere magazine as one of the World's Most Ethical Companies. In 2015, Fortune magazine recognized Aflac as one of the 100 Best Companies to Work For in America for the 17th consecutive year. Also, in 2015, Fortune magazine included Aflac on its list of Most Admired Companies for the 14th time, ranking the company No. 1 in innovation for the insurance, life and health category. Aflac Incorporated is a Fortune 500 company listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol AFL. To find out more about Aflac and One Day PaySM, visit aflac.com or espanol.aflac.com.

About Lightspeed GMI:
Lightspeed GMI is an award-winning global digital data collection enterprise. Founded in 1996, its innovative technology and proven sampling methodologies deliver operational excellence throughout the online research process. With more than 5.5 million online research respondents in 45 countries, Lightspeed GMI's proprietary panels deliver unparalleled quality, capacity and targeting. Headquartered in Warren, New Jersey, Lightspeed GMI is part of the Kantar, the data investment management arm of WPP, the world leader in marketing communication services. www.lightspeedgmi.com.

Aflac herein means American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus and American Family Life Assurance Company of New York.

Media contacts – Jon Sullivan, 706.763.4813 or jsullivan@aflac.com

Analyst and investor contact – Robin Y. Wilkey, 706.596.3264 or 800.235.2667, FAX: 706.324.6330, or rwilkey@aflac.com.

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