CSR & ESG, An Imperative for Tech Companies
Most major technology manufacturers and service companies now openly talk up the importance of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Environmental Social Governance (ESG). In particular, we see most of these companies highlighting the CSR/ESG initiatives they have undertaken with a recent focus on areas such as sustainability, being “environmentally friendly”, and putting forward the significance of diversity and inclusion as their brand core values. Whether or not those values are being promoted for the right reasons is a moot point.
Consumer Sentiment Towards CSR & ESG Advertisements
In order to measure whether this messaging being broadcasted resonates in consumer minds; we asked Canadians how believable these CSR/ESG initiative-touting advertisements are. The results were quite telling.
Just over one in five Canadians thought the advertisements are believable; 39% reported having somewhat faith in them while a quarter of Canadians said they were still not convinced.
- Interestingly, CSR/ESG messaging resonated most with consumers below the ages of 29 while those above the age of 50 were least impressed - typifying perfectly the divide between “OK Boomers” and the “Woke Generation”.
- Men were more polarized in their opinion than their female counterparts.
- Canadians living in Quebec were least skeptical of corporations’ intent.
- Oddly, household income created no significant bias in reported belief.
Further, a deeper dive showed that Canadians who are primarily using Apple-branded devices (i.e., mobile phone, tablet, or PC) were more trusting in this advertised messaging than their counterparts who primarily used devices from a variety of other brand names. Clearly, Apple's regular conversation about sustainability and reducing environmental footprint is echoing in some consumers' minds.
Source: IDC Canada Consumer n2 Survey; July 2021
*Apple Faithful and Apple Leaner ecosystem profiles combined for illustration
A Real Investment on CSR & ESG
While credit should be given to major technology brands such as Apple, Google, Samsung, and Microsoft who have made the effort to communicate their CSR/ESG initiatives; these efforts should be 21st-century table stakes, just the same as consumer security and privacy have become. Perhaps the technology industry should look for examples (and even expertise) from other industry leaders such as IKEA, who have silently incorporated and mandated operations and practices that align closely with their overall CSR/ESG goals - not just in their retail stores and manufacturing operations, but all the way through to their supply chain partners and vendors.
Our data suggests that consumer technology suppliers will face an uphill battle if they want to increase their credibility with regard to CSR/ESG initiatives; we believe real investments need to be made along with a clear understanding that CSR/ESG initiative-related investments have to align with the overall vision and strategy of a brand. As technology analysts, we wish that more brands would understand the intrinsic value of such initiatives, especially with a cross-generational shift in consumer spending (charged by differing consumer wants and expectations); we would be lying by omission if we didn’t mention that we wished that more consumers would let those beliefs dictate where their consumer dollars are being spent. After all, the "consumer is always right!".
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