Long-term CSR is a winner

This week the Grocer has reported that public belief in climate change has fallen dramatically over the last three months in the wake of a high-profile data-faking scandal at the International Panel for Climate Change.

The grocery weekly was reporting on a Populus poll commissioned by the BBC that found that only 26% of UK adults believed climate change was happening and established as man-made, down from 41% in November.

The proportion of adults who believed in climate change at all was 75%, down from 83%. The magazine says mounting scepticism could have serious consequences for supermarket corporate social responsibility programmes. Marks & Spencer’s Plan A programme includes many measures aimed at cutting CO2 emissions, while Tesco has pledged to become a zero-carbon business by 2050.

“It is very unusual indeed to see such a dramatic shift in opinion in such a short period,” Populus managing director Michael Simmonds told BBC News. “The British public are sceptical about man’s contribution to climate change – and becoming more so. More people are now doubters than firm believers.”

Whilst I don’t doubt the Populus findings, brands should not over react to the research. In its forecast for 2010 Mintel said: “Ethics will play a large part in rebuilding brands. Environmental and ethical issues still attract attention: nearly half of UK adults view them as important and 90% of Americans buy green products at least sometimes.

“For businesses to rebuild brands through ethical efforts, they’ll need to connect with consumers, giving them an emotional reason to buy. As consumers demand more from the companies they do business with, they’ll want ethical responsibility to be a chief concern, creating more scrutiny on ethical claims than ever before.”

The fact remains that in the long-term brands that adopt meaningful CSR programmes will be the winners, not just with consumers but with legislators who are creating more laws to force reductions in carbon.

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