May 21, 2013

Trust Goes Social: Global Study Finds Peers, Consumer Reviews Now Rival Certifications As Top Sources of Trust on Product Sustainability Claims


NEW YORK CITY - Trust is no longer in your hands. According to a study by the GlobeScan Foundation, SustainAbility, and BBMG, social sources of trust like consumer reviews, blogs and message boards (28%) as well as friends, family and co-workers (27%) now rival traditional sources like certifications (40%) and media reports (31%) as consumers’ most trusted sources for determining whether a product is socially and environmentally responsible. Barely one in ten consumers relies on company advertisements or website content for information, showing that the most trusted sources are often beyond a company’s control.

According to the study — Re:Thinking Consumption: Consumers and the Future of Sustainability — consumers in emerging markets (Brazil, China and India) are more than four times as likely as those in developed markets (UK, USA, Germany) to turn to social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn as a trusted source of information (22% to 5% respectively).

“Our findings reflect the new context for corporate reputation and trust, as peer-to-peer communication and social platforms rival certifications and media reports as the most reliable sources of information on sustainable product claims for consumers,” says Eric Whan, Sustainability Director at GlobeScan. “Forward-thinking brands will increasingly tap peer networks and social media channels to try to drive trust. Authenticity will determine their success.”

Rethinking Consumption Consumers and the Future of Sustainability The Regeneration Roadmap-Click-to-Read“Simply put, companies no longer own their brands. They are co-owned and co-created by consumers whose experiences, ideas and opinions are now shaping brand perceptions and trust,” says Raphael Bemporad, co-founder of brand innovation consultancy BBMG. “Companies that cultivate honest and collaborative relationships with consumers will be best positioned to win their trust, loyalty and participation.”


Re:Thinking Consumption Report – Key Findings:

Most Trusted Sources:

  • Consumers’ most trusted sources “to inform you about whether a product is environmentally and socially responsible” include certification seals or labels on product packaging (40%), media reports (31%), consumer reviews, ratings, blogs or message boards (28%), friends, family or co-workers (27%) and government information or reports (25%).

Least Trusted Sources:

  • Consumers’ least trusted sources include company advertisements (11%), films or documentaries (11%), company website or a company’s Facebook page (7%) and church, temple or other spiritual communities (3%). Five percent of consumers say they have “no way of knowing who to trust for this information.”

Market Differences:

  • Twenty-two percent of consumers in emerging markets identify “social media like Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn” as one of their most trusted sources of information, while only 5% of consumers in developed markets choose the same.
  • Twenty percent of consumers in emerging markets identify “corporate social responsibility or sustainability reports” as one of their most trusted sources of information, while only 9% of consumers in developed markets choose the same.
  • Fifteen percent of consumers in emerging markets identify “endorsements by organizations you trust” as one of their most trusted sources of, while 29% of consumers in developed markets choose the same.

Background and Methodology:

Developed by BBMG, GlobeScan and SustainAbility, Re:Thinking Consumption is an in-depth online survey of consumer attitudes, motivations and behaviors relating to sustainable consumption among 6,224 respondents across six major international markets (Brazil, China, Germany, India, the United Kingdom and the United States) conducted in September and October 2012. Drawn from consumer research panels, global data are comparable to having a margin of error of +/- 1.3 percent. Analysis of country-level data reflects a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent.

The study is part of the The Regeneration Roadmap, a collaborative and multi-faceted thought leadership initiative designed to engage the private sector in advancing sustainable development by improving sustainability strategy, increasing credibility and delivering results at greater speed and scale.

Presenting Sponsors of The Regeneration Roadmap are BMW Group and SC Johnson. Sponsors include Cisco, DuPont, Interface and Pfizer. The Regeneration Consumer Study is sponsored by Campbell Soup Company, Itau, L’Oréal, Shell and Starbucks.

GlobeScan Foundation

The GlobeScan Foundation is dedicated to helping achieve a more sustainable and just world for all. To accomplish this we develop and apply a range of social science tools to give voice to global publics, help unlock collaboration and accelerate progress. Learn more here