As Corporate Activism Goes International, Morning Consult’s Global Corporate Purpose Tracker Will Help Leaders Chart a Course

Our newest tracker measures consumer demand for corporate activism and trust in business across 17 countries
Global Corporate Purpose Tracker
Getty Images / Morning Consult artwork by Anna Davis
August 23, 2022 at 5:00 am UTC

Key Takeaways

  • Amid a rising tide of ethical consumerism, geopolitical risk and corporate activism are colliding in ways that leave business leaders with difficult choices about how to respond.

  • Morning Consult’s newly launched Global Corporate Purpose Tracker is intended to help decision-makers chart a path forward.

  • The tracker follows trust in business, values-based purchasing intentions and consumer demand for corporate activism in response to geopolitical developments across 17 countries monthly, including a deep dive into U.S. consumer sentiment.

  • The tracker is an unparalleled resource for business leaders seeking to stay ahead of the rapidly evolving geopolitical landscape and meet global consumers — the majority of whom engage in values-based purchasing — where they stand.

The past few years have seen consumers and employees placing increasing demands on business leaders to react to hot-button domestic issues like diversity and inclusion, COVID-19 vaccination mandates, and the future of work. In parallel, consumers have been calling upon multinationals to take stances on global geopolitical developments, ranging from evidence of forced labor in China’s Xinjiang region to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s exhortation of Western companies still operating in Russia to “stop funding the murder of women and children.”

Global corporate activism is not new. Boycotts of apartheid South Africa and the Free Burma campaign, as well as backlash against Western oil companies doing business in Nigeria, are a few examples that predate the current wave. But navigating the rapidly evolving geopolitical landscape — including war in Europe, tensions over Taiwan and ever-growing concerns about climate change — will test companies’ abilities to balance their business interests with consumers’ demands like never before.

Across 17 markets where Morning Consult tracks public opinion on geopolitics on a monthly basis, majorities of adults say they prefer to buy from brands that reflect their social values, highlighting the magnitude of latent global demand for corporate activism.

Majorities of Consumers Across 17 Markets Prioritize Ethical Consumerism

Share of adults who “strongly” or “somewhat” agree that they prefer to buy goods and services from companies that reflect their social values
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Survey conducted monthly among a representative sample of roughly 1,000 adults in each country, with unweighted margins of error of +/-3 percentage points.

Yet global consumers’ enthusiasm varies markedly by country. U.S. adults were the least likely to say they would reward corporate social responsibility (58%), compared with those in the United Kingdom (61%), Germany (66%), China (69%) and Italy (78%).

The values consumers hold — both across and within countries — vary widely, too. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a case in point. Consumers in the United States and much of Western Europe called for companies to withdraw from Russia or risk consumer boycotts in a show of solidarity with Ukraine. Meanwhile, Chinese consumers punished ride-hailing giant Didi for announcing its withdrawal from Russia, reminding business leaders that what people mean by “values” is often shaped by where they live. U.S. consumers’ interest in values-based purchasing in response to global developments such as these is contingent on their political leanings: While 73% of Democrats said they prefer to buy goods reflecting their social values, only 54% of Republicans and 51% of independents said the same, which helps to explain the relatively low levels of overall U.S. support compared with other countries.

As these examples make clear, geopolitical risk, domestic politics and consumers’ preferences vis-à-vis corporate activism can collide in ways that force business leaders to make difficult choices about whose values to prioritize and under what circumstances. Today’s increasingly fraught geopolitical landscape — and, in many countries, heightened political polarization — mean leaders will be forced to contend with such dilemmas more frequently than before.

To that end, Morning Consult’s Geopolitical Risk Analysis team has launched the Global Corporate Purpose Tracker. It will help business leaders proactively gauge global consumers’ expectations in response to major categories of geopolitical developments and chart a path forward by following trust in business, values-based purchasing intentions and consumer demand for corporate activism on a monthly basis across 17 countries, including a deep dive into U.S. consumer sentiment.

The tracker is updated quarterly. Reach out to [email protected] to discuss the data with a member of our team and learn more about Morning Consult’s geopolitical risk offering.

A headshot photograph of Sonnet Frisbie
Sonnet Frisbie
Deputy Head of Political Intelligence

Sonnet Frisbie is the deputy head of political intelligence and leads Morning Consult’s geopolitical risk offering for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Prior to joining Morning Consult, Sonnet spent over a decade at the U.S. State Department specializing in issues at the intersection of economics, commerce and political risk in Iraq, Central Europe and sub-Saharan Africa. She holds an MPP from the University of Chicago.

Follow her on Twitter @sonnetfrisbie. Interested in connecting with Sonnet to discuss her analysis or for a media engagement or speaking opportunity? Email [email protected].

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