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Corporate thinking is changing. 

You’ve heard this a thousand times. I get it. But hear me out…

Not so long ago, leadership teams focused all their energy and attention squarely on clients and shareholders. Then they broadened this focus to include employees. Now, they realize they won’t get anywhere in business without including society at large. 

Why? It’s simple really – 

Consumers are taking the reins, demanding brands have a positive social impact. Our latest research proves it. 

71% in the U.S. and UK think brands/big corporations should be doing more to address environmental issues

They’re not just saying it either – this thinking is very much impacting how they buy; 61% of consumers would pay more for an eco-friendly product, while 20% say even knowing a product/company is environmentally-friendly would make them more likely to buy.

It’s not all about the environment of course, especially in the U.S. Our GWI USA data shows over the course of 2020, the portion of U.S. consumers saying equal rights were important to them increased by 10% – meaning it’s now 45% of the population saying this, and 57% of Black Americans. 

So what does all this mean for brands? In truth, it means if they don’t start listening and acting accordingly, business will suffer. 

This past year has blurred the professional and personal boundaries enormously – meaning they’re facing both external and internal pressure to act.

But speaking with honest intent isn’t usually where efforts to change stall. It’s in knowing where things actually stand, so you can make a plan. 

That comes down to data – which is what we do at GWI. 

Some ways we’re working to make a difference

So we’ve all this data telling us what people are asking for – and yes, our clients who use it on the daily are doing some tremendous things. But we want to play our part too, in whatever way we can.

We’ve decided to let the research steer us in the right direction, launching our own initiatives to bring about some of that positive change consumers are asking for:

  • Through my recent appointment to the Ad Council Board of Directors we’ll be using GWI data to help with the council’s social good communication campaigns – including COVID-19 vaccines, immigration, Asian hate, LGBQT rights and climate change.
  • We’re supporting the ANA SeeHer initiative by donating seats to our platform. We’re also working on insights to help advertisers and media companies address the need for more accurate portrayals of women and girls – a pressing issue, considering over a quarter in the U.S. think the pandemic has had a negative impact on gender equality.
  • We strongly believe in the need to drive more inclusion and equality through equal opportunity – which is why we launched the GWI Student initiative. This gives anyone in the UK with a registered student email free access to all of our expert reports and resources. As the world’s most trusted source of online consumer insight – this is a key part of our efforts to democratize our research.
  • Then there’s our GWI Accelerator work, which stems from our commitment to level the playing field for startups. We’re partnering with three startup accelerators and have signed on 28 startups with 35 active users to date.

Of course, we’ve no intention of stopping here. This is just the start of what we think we can achieve by bringing the voice of the consumer more to the fore, and acting on their behalf in whatever way we can.

Making efforts more meaningful 

So where do you start? 

We’ve found that a democratic process brings broader buy-in for social and community initiatives.

When a project comes from an employee’s own experience or that of someone they know, taking action becomes about inspiration, not obligation.

We need to view real change as a cooperative effort.

And it’s something any organization can achieve, if their leaders are willing to:

  • Listen to what people want. Don’t dictate – we all have our opinions and passion projects, but employees should be empowered to advance their own ideas. (And, it’s a great opportunity to learn more about your colleagues.)
  • Evaluate the options. Develop (and consistently apply) an objective set of criteria. This helps eliminate bias as well as the prospect of a multitude of causes that divide resources and might not benefit as many people.
  • Act. Use your criteria to create an operations framework. Communicate objectives, milestones and the tasks needed to reach them. You don’t want a great idea to wither due to differing expectations about the work involved. 

The evolution of company dynamics and corporate responsibility will continue. Some might see it as an opportunity. Others might see it as additional responsibility. 

But focusing on what your organization can bring to the table and developing a plan to maximize that service is all people are asking for – and it pays to listen.

Click to access our connecting the dots 2021 report

Written by

Carrie Seifer is General Manager of the U.S. region at GWI. Focused on leading business strategy, Carrie has a strong background in high-growth business environments, previously holding executive roles at IBM, Publicis, Millennial Media and Conde Nast. With particular expertise in creating go-to-market strategies within advertising, B2B and media sectors, she helps to power companies with the right intelligence.

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