OPINION30 March 2015

Saving the world, one survey at a time

Opinion UK

Corporate Social Responsibility is nothing new, nor is it an entirely altruistic endeavour.


The more cynical among us could probably find research demonstrating that corporations with significant CSR programmes increase long term profits, as well as give employees a sense of pride in the business, so increasing their tenure and productivity.

Microsoft is often cited as having the best CSR programme in the world. In 2014 alone, the organisation donated $948.6 million of software and hardware to non-profits worldwide, and its YouthSpark initiative created 124 million education, employment and entrepreneurship opportunities.

So far, so good. But CSR is not without its critics; one of the most notorious cases, which did little to help the cause, is that of Enron in 2001. Since then, the way CSR has increasingly been used as a tool by corporations has led to increasing cynicism towards it on the part of the consumer. While research from The Economist shows that people running companies believe strongly that CSR improves the bottom line, when it comes to mainstream purchasing there is not much evidence that ethical behaviour or charitable giving on the part of a company has any influence over consumer purchasing patterns.

There is always the core of middle-classes who will purchase more expensive, ethically-sourced or environmental products, but in an age of austerity are these concerns moving down, rather than up the agenda?

As researchers, we surely sit on a great potential resource – charitable incentives. But literature on charitable giving’s effectiveness as an incentive is mixed. We recently asked our respondents whether they would be more inclined to respond to a survey invitation if a donation was made every time they did; 38% agreed that it would make them more inclined. We’ll be tracking this to see if there is any growth; although the majority disagreed, we think the result is surely hopeful.

And so to my last point, there are times when there are very real crises close to home and ‘there but for the grace of God’ applies. The Market Research Benevolent Association’s annual charity auction is now well underway. Last year’s activities raised over £10k towards providing financial help, advice and support to people who are working or have worked within the market research industry regardless of their title, level or role.

This excellent event is just one way in which we in the research community can give something back to those less fortunate than ourselves. And if you’re wondering, I currently have the meal for two at Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner in my sights (failing that, I’ll get my money on Tariq Mirza coming round to cook an Indian meal for six of us). If you’re not already bidding for one of these wonderful gifts, holidays or experiences, get yourself over to www.32auctions.com/mrba2015 and start bidding.

When giving back makes us feel good, improves team morale, helps those in need, and arguably benefits our company’s bottom line – what’s not to love?

Ben Hogg is managing director EMEA – portfolio businesses at Research Now.