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Americans Think Toms And Whole Foods Are The Most Socially Responsible Companies–Sort Of

Quick: Think of an organization that’s good for the world. If you’re like many, you probably came up blank–or picked one of the above.

Americans Think Toms And Whole Foods Are The Most Socially Responsible Companies–Sort Of
[Top Photo: Flickr user Parke Ladd]

When asked, almost 1 in 3 Americans can’t name a single socially responsible organization. But the people who can most often cite Toms Shoes, Whole Foods, and Microsoft–even ahead of nonprofits like the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army.

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The findings come from the third annual Conscious Consumer Spending Index, a report created by marketing agency Good.Must.Grow. This year, the report included a poll, which asked respondents to name a single company or organization that they consider to be socially responsible. These are the top 20 most popular answers, based on a survey of 1,021 people:


Most of these companies make sense on a list like this–we’ve written about the corporate social responsibility policies and actions taken of the majority of them. Chik-fil-A, known primarily at this point (aside from its food) for its anti-gay stance, is a bit of an outlier; the 20th most popular answer to the poll was actually “churches,” but since that’s not a single entity, the fast food chain moved up on the list.

Even though over one quarter of respondents couldn’t name a single socially responsible organization, 32% of those polled still plan to spend more money on socially responsible brands. Some 64% of respondents also emphasized that it’s important to them to buy from these companies–a small increase from the results in 2013.

For some people, these ideals are just that–ideals–and go no further. Just 73% of respondents who said they planned to spend more on socially responsible companies last year actually said they went through with it. A big part of the problem is a lack of knowledge. Nearly half of people polled by GMG said they just didn’t know where to find socially responsible products (Though presumably some of those people who cited Toms in the poll have seen the company’s online marketplace, which is filled with products from purpose-driven brands).

There is some good news in the report. The vast majority of respondents say that buying recyclable and reusable products is important to them, as is reducing consumption overall. These numbers are all up from 2013.

Older generations are stingy on the responsible giving front, according to the poll. But people between 18 and 24 are more likely to say that they are planning to increase charitable giving and socially responsible spending compared to even those ages 25 to 34. You can chalk it up to the idealism of youth–but hopefully, it’s also because of a growing awareness that humanity needs to do better in order to survive.

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About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more

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