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Low Prices vs. Ethics: Consumers Rate Corporate Priorities


•    As more Americans feel the personal impact of the economic crisis, we decided to use our September 2010 national survey to revisit an issue we first explored in 2005: What values do consumers believe are most important for businesses to uphold?

•    Our findings demonstrate that consumers’ priorities for businesses have shifted considerably over the last few years – and that, despite consumers’ need for lower prices, they increasingly want businesses to behave ethically.

Key Findings

Despite the economic downturn, ethical business practices are rated as increasingly more important than bottom-line, consumer-oriented priorities such as low prices.

•  Consumers today rate “ethical business practices” as the most important value for  businesses to uphold – a 5 point shift upward from 2005.

 – Community-based values, such as “contributing to the local community” and   “protecting the environment” have also become more important to consumers.

• “Providing low prices to consumers” is now rated as less of a priority than it was  five years ago – dropping 8 points between 2005 and 2010.

 –  Another consumer-oriented value, “quality products and services,” has also fallen   off in importance – dropping 3 points from the top spot in 2005 to second place   in 2010, behind “ethical business practices.”

A note about methodology

The findings described in this memo are based on a survey conducted Sept. 23-26, 2010 among a national probability sample of 1,013 adults, age 18+, living in private households in the continental United States. The margin of error on the total sample of 1,013 is +/- 3.1%. The study was conducted by telephone and respondents were drawn from a random digit dial sample which gives every household an equal chance of being called. All respondents were screened to ensure that they are currently 18 years or older. The overall sample results were weighted demographically and geographically. All numbers are presented as percentages and, due to rounding, may not add up to 100%. The 2005 national survey was conducted using identical methodology, from Oct. 27-Nov. 3, 2005 among 1,200 adults, 18+ (margin of error, +/- 2.8%).

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