Dutch consumers expect businesses to contribute to society

Marjolein Rigter | Business Director Reputation Management

June 19, 2019

Dutch consumers retail shopping

According to research, 90% of Dutch consumers think that businesses should make a visible and meaningful contribution to society. It is important, however, that the social goal, or purpose, comes across as credible. If a company’s purpose is not seen as credible, over a quarter of the population would pay less for any product associated with that purpose. It also appears that around a third of the population of the Netherlands believes a purpose is not credible when the CEO of an organization does not speak about it, or barely refers to it. And 23% believe it is not credible when the CEOs do not support the purpose in their private life.

These are the findings of a survey commissioned by Omnicom PR Group of more than 1,000 Dutch citizens. The results are representative of the whole of the Netherlands and are divided up by gender, age, level of education and region.

When asked what makes a purpose credible, a large majority says that an organisation should be clear about how and why it is pursuing that social goal. This is more important than the question of whether the purpose matches the organisation’s activities (46%, or whether all the employees actually do something with that social goal (28%).

Marjolein Rigter, responsible for Reputation Management & Purpose with Omnicom PR Group, says: “Purpose is hot. And rightly so. Today’s consumers expect businesses to contribute to society besides making a profit. But Dutch people are wary of businesses that support a social goal purely because it’s good for marketing. They think it is important that a business makes a real and substantial contribution. This appears to count much more than whether the goal has a logical link to the activities of the business. The role of the CEO is also striking. Consumers observe his or her actions to see whether the message is serious.

“In our daily practice, we see purpose playing an increasing role for our clients. There is a lot of international research into purpose, but little has been done on the Dutch front yet, even though the Dutch have their own distinct view of purpose. This survey will help us in consulting our clients.”

Credibility is well rewarded – especially by millennials

Dutch consumers like organizations that have a credible social goal. Marjolein Rigter continues: “Our survey shows that 84% of the respondents are considering switching to a meaningful organization. Younger generations are even more certain of this. Millennials are more often prepared to try out a new product from a socially engaged organization. Take, for example, the outdoor clothing of Patagonia or a bar of chocolate from Tony’s Chocolonely.”

Furthermore, millennials are more often willing to pay more for a product. And finally, a large proportion of Dutch consumers (42%) are more likely to talk to friends and family about a company that is pursuing a social goal.

On the other hand, for 80% of the Dutch population, having a purpose that is not credible will result in negative consequences. For example, 27% of the respondents would want to pay less for such a product associated with that purpose and 21% would not want to buy the product at all anymore.

Purpose creates attention

Dutch consumers are also more inclined to read an article in the newspaper if the story is about a meaningful organization (37%). The annual report of a socially engaged organization is also more likely to be read (27%).

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