A growing number of Americans are concerned about ethical issues and are putting their money where their values are by supporting businesses who share the same concerns, according to the latest Global Consumer Barometer by Toluna, a technology company specializing in consumer market research.

Human rights (51 percent) and environmental issues (51 percent) are the biggest concerns for Americans, followed by poverty (50 percent) and equality/diversity (42 percent), Toluna reported. This sentiment carries through when it comes to purchasing decisions as 49 percent of those surveyed care that the brands that they are buying are supporting ethical issues that align with their own values.  Plus, more than half (51 percent) would consider switching to a brand that actively supports an ethical issue that is important to them.

While many Americans feel that brands and manufacturers are responsible for driving change, the majority believe it’s the responsibility of the everyday citizen to help drive change. Toluna found that whether it’s through actions or money, U.S. consumers are doing their part.  More than half of those surveyed say they make an effort to recycle (60 percent), reduce food waste (58 percent) and reuse or donate unwanted clothes (56 percent). Over a third are taking action by supporting charities financially (37 percent), using sustainable products around the house (37 percent), donating to food banks (34 percent) and buying from socially responsible brands/retailers (30 percent). 

Toluna found that although plenty of companies are leveraging ethical issues to help attract consumers, one-third of Americans still feel like there is room for improvement across all types of brands. Food and beverage brands (38 percent) are seen as needing the most work, followed by retailers (34 percent) and personal care hygiene (33 percent). Respondents believe governments and local authorities are responsible for driving change, yet the vast majority believe it’s the responsibility of everyday citizens (67 percent). They also feel that brands and manufacturers (45 percent) and supermarkets/retailers (38 percent) need to do their part, too.  One-third also believe that charities/non-profits should play a role.

Since the pandemic, respondents believe that companies and brands have upped their game when it comes to social responsibility. The findings showed that Americans feel businesses have improved their working arrangements and well-being support of their employees (38 percent), customer empathy and service (32 percent), and the amount of resources/financial support provided for local communities (30 percent). Respondents also believe the pandemic has prompted businesses to improve communications with customers (28 percent), improve equality for employees (27 percent) and enhance products and services that address environmental issues (27 percent) and meet customer needs (25 percent).  A quarter also said they’ve seen businesses become more socially responsible by repurposing products to provide support during the pandemic (24 percent).

When it comes to being kept up to date on how companies progress on important ethical issues, Americans put their most of their trust in their local media outlets (41 percent), followed by the Internet and TV (36 percent), 24-hour news channels (34 percent), and social media/celebrities (28 percent).

“It’s no longer enough to align a brand with certain values—the brand must demonstrate that it’s helping to make a change,” said Ron Ruffinott, VP, Head of Research Solutions at Toluna. “When you see Fortune 100 companies including Amazon, Delta Airlines, and Visa announcing that they are moving to zero emissions, it’s clear that brands are making business decisions that align with consumers’ changing values.”

Toluna’s Global Consumer Barometer is a regular index that taps into a panel of 36+ million members to provide accurate and timely information on the world’s current perceptions. The latest research surveyed 1,000 people in the U.S. between September 16 and September 21, 2021.

Source: Toluna Global Consumer Barometer