Industry CCSR Performance and Cause Marketing

Abacus Data and the Corporate and Community Social Responsibility Conference have partnered to produce a series of public opinion and market research studies on CCSR in Canada.CCSR is a growing area of interest not only for corporations but also for community organizations, social enterprises, consumers, and government. There is a significant amount of research data from American and European sources. 

The intent of this six-part research series is to gather data from Canadians by Canadians over a 12-month period.  It will give us a Canadian perspective on corporate and community social responsibility and allow us to track attitudes and behaviour over time

A new survey from Abacus Data and the Corporate and Community Social Responsibility Conference finds that when it comes to corporate social responsibility, few industries perform well in the eyes of Canadian consumers, despite high expectations from those consumers.

The sixth survey released as part of the year-long Corporate and Community Social Responsibility research series focused on the performance of a number of Canadian industries, the appetite for cause marketing among consumers, and the natural linkages between the corporate and non-profit (community) sectors.

Industry Performance

Comparatively speaking, Canadians were more likely to believe that it was important for the health services, electricity production, pharmaceutical, and oil and gas industries to have good social responsibility records.   In contrast, Canadians were less likely to believe that it was important for telecom services, home building supplies and shipping industries to be socially responsible.

When it came to assessing the performance of different industries, the survey found that few of the industries tested were perceived to perform well when it came to social responsibility.  The best performing industries were grocery retailers, home building supply chains, and food and beverage manufacturers.  The industries perceived to be the weakest performers were the oil and gas and electricity production industries.

Aligning Industries with Causes

Respondents were then asked to match an industry with the most appropriate cause for it to support.  Natural alliances did emerge from the test.  Industries involved in health care services were linked by respondents with health research or children’s health care while industrial industries and shippers were aligned with environmental protection.  Grocery retailers and food and beverage manufacturers were more likely to be matched with organizations that promote active living.

When asked which cause was most important to them personally, 25% of Canadians surveyed said poverty reduction, followed by health research (22%), environmental protection (20%), and children’s health care (11%).  Amateur sport, arts and culture, and international development were least likely to be selected with only 2% of respondents selecting each.

Cause Marketing

A large majority of Canadians (79%) said they have purchased a product or service that promised to contribute a percentage of the profits to a cause or charity.  Among those respondents, 64% said the contribution to the cause or charity was either very important or somewhat important to their decision to purchase the product.  This indicates that there is a significant number of Canadians can be persuaded to purchase products or services that are linked with social or environmental causes.

Finally, respondents were shown two different cause marketing ideas: (1) a loyalty card that they could use at participating stores to earn points that have a dollar value which they can donate to a charity or cause of their choice and (2) a voting system whereby consumers can vote from a given list to help decide which causes or charities the retailer or producers should support with a major financial contribution.

Overall, a majority of Canadians surveyed said they would be interested in both ideas.  Seven in ten Canadians (72%) said they would be interested in the cause voting system while 62% said they would be interested in the cause marketing loyalty card.


“Canadians are willing to buy products or services that partner with causes they support,” said David Coletto, CEO of Abacus Data.  “They see a natural connection between certain industries and different causes and want to be engaged in the decision making process about how their spending can improve the world around them.”

“Engaging the consumer directly in CSR strategies is a win-win for both the cause and the corporation,” said Eli Fathi, Chair of the CCSR Conference.  “By giving the customer a voice in which causes a corporation supports, corporations can build loyalty and good will with consumers while aligning with causes that their stakeholders support.”

Download the full report.

Survey Methodology

From September 23-25, 2011, Abacus Data Inc. conducted an online survey among 1,013 randomly selected Canadian adults from an online panel of over 150,000 Canadians.

Since the online survey was not a random, probability based sample, a margin of error could not be calculated.  The margin of error for a survey of 1,013 respondents using a probability sample is  +/- 3.1%, 19 times out of 20.

Results of the survey were statistically weighted by gender, age, region, language, and immigration status using census data from Statistics Canada and by past vote using Elections Canada results from the 2011 General Election. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.

For more information about the survey findings, please contact Dr. David Coletto, CEO Abacus Data Inc. at (613) 884-4730 or