How different cultures view corporate social responsibility

In the last several decades, most US companies have developed some sort of corporate social responsibility (CSR) program in an effort to better resonate with their customers and employees as well as support their surrounding communities. These programs range from purely local, such as supporting local STEM training, to global, such as distributing portable water filtration systems in impoverished countries.

Research is beginning to indicate that a thoughtfully conceived and implemented CSR program can become a differentiating factor for a company, distinguishing themselves within their target markets. In addition, if a consumer values a particular CSR program, this can become a decision variable when selecting between products.

While most US consumers now expect companies to have some sort of CSR program, even a small local one, there has been little research on how CSR is perceived in other countries.

Becker-Olson, Taylor, Hill, and Yalcinkaya (2011) examined the CSR expectations and perceived value as defined by both US and Mexican consumers. They found that in Mexico, there are “territorial disputes regarding who should manage social issues – the government, NGOs, individuals, the church, or private enterprises.” In addition, Mexico is a collective society, based on Hofstede’s cultural dimensions; therefore, most people believe in helping those within their groups, whether those groups are family, neighbors, co-workers, etc. Similarly, they found in the US that many consumers easily accept both the idea of CSR and the resulting programs due to the increasing number of marketing communications about programs; in fact, most US consumers now even desire the activities of many CSR programs, such “races for cures.”

Becker-Olson et al. discovered that Mexican consumers actually value CSR programs more than their US counterparts, likely because they value, from a collectivist standpoint, the idea of helping those close to them. In addition, they attached a prestige value to products coming from companies with strong CSR programs and showed stronger brand recognition of those companies.

From a international marketer’s perspective, this research is just an initial step in examining global attitudes towards CSR. However, it could be worthwhile to consider expanding CSR programs as you expand into new markets.

References:

Becker-Olsen, K., Taylor, C., Hill, R., Yalcinkaya, G. (2011). “A cross-cultural examination of corporate social responsibility marketing communications in Mexico and the United States: strategies for global brands.” Journal of International Marketing. 19 (2) pp. 30-44.

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