Most (82%) wealthy Americans define social responsibility by a company behaving ethically with employees, customers and suppliers. Environmental behavior and philanthropic actions are both named by respondents as an essential component of CSR (58%), according to a new survey by the independent and objective New York-based Luxury Institute, “Corporate Social Responsibility: The Wealthy Consumer’s Viewpoint.” The respondents, U.S. consumers earning at least $150,000 per year, reported average income of $307,000 and average net worth of $3.1 million.
Almost half (45%) of wealthy consumers say they seek out brands with high ethical standards, but only 39% of these shoppers would be willing to pay a premium. That’s down from 56% who would pay a premium in 2007. Apple, BMW, Coach, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Nordstrom, Starbucks and Whole Foods are frequently cited as highly ethical standouts.
Twenty-seven percent of wealthy consumers learn about companies’ socially responsible behavior via Facebook or Twitter. That’s up from 8% who received their information from social media in 2007. Reading news articles is the most popular (52%) way to learn of CSR efforts, down from 64% five years ago.
“Even wealthy consumers have de-emphasized social responsibility as this economy focuses everyone on price/value and away from social issues,” says Luxury Institute CEO Milton Pedraza. “Nevertheless, we see that luxury and premium brands that are socially responsible do better even during recessions because doing well by doing good is a universal and timeless concept.”