We hear a lot these days about consumers wanting to - and sometimes feeling under pressure to - do the right thing and make ethically sound choices. This is reflected in our GfK Roper Reports Worldwide study of over 37,000 consumers globally. There, we find that 37% agree that they only buy products and services that appeal to their beliefs, values or ideals. This year we also asked in detail about corporate social responsibility. Respondents were asked to name the three most important responsibilities of companies today. Over a fifth mentioned paying their fair share of taxes.
I thought of this as I passed my local bookshop the other day. Independent book retailers have had a tough time of it lately, not only from increased competition from online booksellers but also the growth of e-readers. My local outlet, however, has decided to fight back by hitting its bigger rivals where it hurts. Under the heading, ‘Think Before You Click’, it points out in a poster displayed outside its premises that one online rival has paid no tax in the UK in recent years, despite the billions its UK operations have made in profits.
The bookshop, by contrast, points out that the tax it paid in a similar period to the UK government was almost half of the amount required to pay for one student nurse in the country’s public health system. While some people may have reservations about this approach, it certainly puts the point across in an emotive way, and it definitely made me consider the ethical implications of my own purchases. With the ethics of a product or service proving to be so important to many consumers, I can’t help thinking this kind of approach could be an opportunity to other smaller organisations – and a potential threat to their larger rivals.