Half of consumers under age 40 are willing to pay extra for products and services from socially-responsible companies, according to Nielsen’s Global Survey of Corporate Citizenship.

The survey, conducted with more than 28,000 consumers in 56 countries, shows that overall 46% are willing to pay extra for products and services from companies that have implemented programs to give back to society, a figure higher among under-40s at 51%.

These ‘socially-conscious consumers’ are more prevalent in Asia Pacific, with 55% willing to pay extra than in North America (35%) and Europe (32%), with only 35% and 32% prepared to fork out extra for social responsibility.

In Australia, fewer are willing to pay a premium than among our APAC neighbours, with only 31% happy to pay more for products and services from socially responsible companies.The highest concentration of socially-conscious consumers reside in the Philippines, where 68% of respondents are willing to pay extra for products, while the lowest concentration is in the Netherlands, where 21% of respondents indicated a willingness to spend more.

Vice president of Nielsen’s global corporate social responsibility arm, Nic Covey, says the findings show that corporate social responsibility efforts resonate with a specific group of consumers.

“Marketers need to know who those consumers are in order to maximise the social and business return of their cause marketing efforts,” Covey adds. “This understanding allows brands to engage in social impact efforts that appeal to the right consumers with the right causes and through the right channels.”

Nielsen claims socially-conscious consumers are willing to pay more to buy from responsible corporate citizens.

Covey points out that knowing which causes are most important to your customers is an important step in prioritising a brand’s social investments. Globally, the ones that ranked of highest importance were environmental sustainability, which resonated with 66% of consumers, improvements to science, technology, engineering and math education, important to 56%, and the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger which was important to 53% of consumers.

In Australia, the most popular causes are environmental sustainability, support to small business and entrepreneurship and creating well-compensated jobs. See below for the full list of causes that Australians think companies should support.

In making support for causes believable, the study highlights the importance of social media. Almost all (95%) socially-conscious consumers trust recommendations from people they know and three in four look for opinions and information posted by other consumers online. The majority of socially-conscious consumers also refer to social networks when making purchase decisions, with 63% consulting opinions of their peers on Facebook, Twitter or other social networks before buying products or services.

It should be noted though, that sometimes what consumers say and what they actually do are two separate things.