Socially Minded: The Causes Men and Women Value

Socially Minded: The Causes Men and Women Value

There’s no shortage of research that speaks to the importance of corporate social responsibility, and newer findings confirm the bottom-line benefit for brands that practice what they preach. So if we know that consumers are engaging more with brands that are going green, producing sustainable products and giving back, do we have insight into which causes resonate the most? And are there discernible preferences between men and women?

The short answer is yes.

Corporate social responsibility, also referred to as corporate citizenship or conscious capitalism, has become a meaningful way brands can differentiate themselves—and a growing base of consumers are clamoring to pay for it. In fact, 55% of global respondents in a recent Nielsen survey say they’ll pay extra for products and services from companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact. And when we look at how the perspectives vary between the sexes, we see that most of the differences show up in the causes that women care about, both in magnitude and ranking.


In looking at data from Nielsen’s 2014 corporate social responsibility survey, we see that while concern runs deep for both men and women across a variety of causes, the level of commitment between the sexes shows somewhat different agendas. While this might seem fairly intuitive, the findings show notably different perspectives between men and women when it comes to supporting issues like access to clean water, poverty, animal welfare and gender equality.

Overall, the responses from women suggest that they’re more concerned than men. In fact, across the swath of questions the survey fielded about social causes, there were only four in which men expressed stronger sentiment than women, and those pertained to areas of small business support, education, technology and construction. Comparatively, women appear more invested in more human-oriented causes, such as disease and maternal health.


Even though the sexes are somewhat divided on their level of support to various causes, men and women are very aligned in their overall interest in brands and products that give back. And that interest is rising quickly. In fact, the global average of people who say they’re willing to spend more for products and services from companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact increased 5% between 2013 and 2014.

But actions speak louder than words, so it’s worth pointing out that consumers aren’t just paying lip service when it comes to causes they believe in. In the last corporate social responsibility survey, 53% of men and 52% of women said they had bought at least one product or service because they believed the company is committed to making a positive social and environmental impact. A review of sales trends across 20 brands in nine countries showed that these intentions led to a 5% greater rate of sales for companies that communicated their sustainability efforts through marketing programs.

And consumers aren’t just acting with their wallets. In many ways, their consumer behaviors correspond with their general sentiment about making a difference themselves: nearly 50% of men and women say they actively engage in volunteer work and/or donate to social causes, and 67% say they prefer to work for a company that is committed to positive social and environmental impact.


While it’s important to understand how men and women view the world’s social issues and causes, women remain the primary decision-makers when shopping is concerned, making it critical for marketers to engage and resonate with them.

And with that in mind, marketers should review their brand strategies and assess the relevance of their social responsibility efforts—largely because they’re so important to consumers, making them essential in today’s market rather than a point of differentiation. Key questions include:

  • Are your current connections strong?
  • Are your current connections aligned with those of your desired customers?
  • Are you missing opportunities by having strong connections to causes that aren’t known about by consumers?

It’s important to note that Nielsen’s global survey data is representative of online households rather than total households. This is a nuanced point, but it likely makes the findings that much more relevant when we consider the buying power of the global households that are online vs. those that aren’t.


The insights in this article were derived from the Nielsen Global Survey of Corporate Social Responsibility, which was conducted between Feb. 17 and March 7, 2014, and polled more than 30,000 consumers in 60 countries throughout Asia-Pacific, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and North America.