Study Shows Most U.S. Consumers Reject Brands They Find Unethical

Most consumers will stop doing business with companies they find unethical, research from Mintel reveals. The market research firm’s report, The Ethical Consumer, found that 56 percent of U.S. consumers say they will stop buying from unethical companies, and that 35 percent will stop buying from brands they perceive as unethical even if no substitute is available. Twenty-seven percent say they will stop purchasing even if the competitor’s products are considered inferior.

Mintel’s research found that most consumers (63 percent) believe ethical issues are becoming more important; they’ll share their opinions, too. The firm found that 34 percent will tell others if they perceive a brand to be honest, fair and responsible, and 29 percent will do so on social media.

While consumers will turn away from brands they see as unethical, less than half (45 percent) are buying products from companies they consider ethical. This is despite 58 percent of consumers reporting that buying ethical products makes them feel good. Most consumers are skeptical, with 52 percent of those surveyed saying that marketing products as “ethical” is just a way that companies manipulate consumers. Also, 49 percent note that companies may behave ethically in some ways but not in others.

“When corporate social responsibility went mainstream in the early 2000s, incorporating social initiatives and linking to ethics was an effective way to attract attention and promote brand loyalty,” says Lauren Bonetto, lifestyles and leisure analyst at Mintel. “Now, with more than half of consumers willing to stop supporting unethical companies, it’s become the norm and is often expected by consumers. These efforts are no longer differentiators and can even draw skepticism among consumers. Brands have attempted to boost their ethical reputations by using icons, but these are only effective for reaching the most engaged consumers. Brands must consider alternative methods to showcase their ethical efforts, such as content marketing showing the full scope of a brand’s actions and participating in related grassroots efforts.”

For more on Mintel’s findings, click here.

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