Just over one-third of U.S. consumers—35 percent—base their loyalty and purchasing decisions on companies’ reputations rather than solely product features and price, calling companies to task over their role in society and influence others to support or abandon brands accordingly. Public relations firm MWWPR’s second annual study found that this group, which it terms “corpsumers,” has grown two percent over the past year, and that eight in 10 are willing to pay more for brands that take a stand on policy and societal issues.

“What the last year has shown us is that companies’ engagement on societal and public policy issues is table stakes—corpsumers don’t just want brands to take a stand, they expect it and act accordingly,” says Carreen Winters, MWWPR’s chairman of reputation and chief strategy officer. “Bigger than moms and Millennials, this powerful market segment sees right through superficial attempts by brands to simply appear as good corporate citizens. In exchange for brand loyalty, they crave authenticity in a company’s ethos, message and execution. ‘Goodwashing’ is the new greenwashing, and companies who attempt to dabble in purpose without authenticity do so at their own peril.”

Corpsumers are looking for businesses to take a stand as their confidence in government erodes—down eight percent since last year. The survey found that 75 percent of corpsumers base purchase decisions on their opinions of company leadership, a four-point increase from 2017, and 36 percent believe company leadership speaking out on an important issue is the best way for companies to take a stand. Also, 90 percent of this group are more likely to try a product from a company that takes a stand on societal and public policy matters, while 80 percent are willing to pay more for products from these companies. Notably, 43 percent prefer a company to take a stand on an issue even if does not align with their own point of view.

The survey found that 78 percent of corpsumers expect companies to have meaningful corporate citizenship initiatives, a four-point increase from 2017. This points to an opening for industry companies to supply products that support these programs. MWWPR’s research uncovered the issues that most loudly resonate with the corpsumer group—81 percent say that a company’s treatment of employees has the greatest impact on purchase decisions, while other top issues include company working conditions (56 percent), product safety (54 percent), and equal pay and employment (53 percent).

Outlining how influential the corpsumer group has become, MWWPR notes that more than three in four consider a company’s actions before deciding to purchase from that company, and that 70 percent encourage others to buy a product from a company with a strong reputation. Giving a generational perspective, 77 percent of Gen Z and 78 percent of Millennials have encouraged someone to buy a product from a company due to its reputation, more so than Gen X and Baby Boomers. Almost half (48 percent) have stayed with a company despite being dissatisfied with their products or services because they believed in the company’s mission or values, although 64 percent have encouraged others to give up a product or service from companies that disappointed them, and 68 percent would abandon brands entirely if their values no longer align.

“Brand bravery and ‘walking the talk’ will be critical for CEOs across industries in 2019,” adds Winters. “A far cry from check-the-box initiatives and greenwashing practices of years past, citizenship is the new gold standard and must be a central tenant of any C-suite agenda or corporate strategy.”