Heart for business

Eight in 10 Americans report that companies that support causes win their trust, a jump of 21 percent over the past eight years, a new study says.

The “2004 Cone Corporate Citizenship Study,” which has been conducted by Cone Inc. in Boston for the past 11 years, asks Americans about their views of corporate support of causes.

More than seven in 10 respondents say it is acceptable for companies to involve causes in their marketing, up from six in 10 in 1993, the study says, and almost nine in 10 say they would be somewhat likely to switch to a brand associated with a cause if price and quality were about equal.

Almost nine in 10 respondents say they would like to hear companies talk about their involvement in causes, but fewer than half those people believe companies are doing a good job of that.

Eight in 10 Americans can name a company they believe is a strong corporate citizen, up from about half three years ago, with Wal-Mart being the most frequently named company, the study says.

While being a good corporate citizen is good for business, negative business practices can hurt, with nine in 10 respondents saying they would consider switching companies, eight in 10 saying they would talk about bad business practices with family and friends,and more than seven in 10 saying they would boycott the company’s products.

But while involvement with causes is important, the study says several factors rate higher with Americans, including quality of products and services, fair prices, employee benefits and human rights and manufacturing.

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