While consumer participation in societal issues soars globally, Australians remain more self-centred and less likely to take action to support good causes.

Five years of data from Edelman’s global Goodpurpose study reveals purpose has become a driving force behind the reengineering of brand marketing around the world, as consumers globally take a greater interest in the common good.

While the majority of Australians (83%) claim it’s very important for businesses to address social and community issues, less than half are putting their money where their mouth is and actually supporting causes themselves. Only 48% of Australians say they are currently involved in supporting a good cause, well below levels in emerging markets such as China (94%), India (78%) and Brazil (65%), and slightly behind the US and UK, both on 53%.

For most Aussies, personal involvement means donating – 64% say they have donated money over the past year to address societal and community issues, while only 29% have donated time or expertise.

CEO of Edelman Australia, Michelle Hutton, says the challenge of getting Australians involved in causes is best addressed by making it about issues that matter most to everyday life.

“The communications challenge for business, the not-for-profit sector, environmental campaigners and the government departments working in these areas is to bring the conversation about these issues back into a personal context,” Hutton says.

“As Australians’ relationships with social issues evolve, so do expectations for the private sector,” Hutton adds. “A growing interest in societal issues and causes, coupled with new individual-driven channels of communication such as Facebook and Twitter, has prompted the rise of ‘citizen actionism’ – individuals who seek deeper involvement with social issues and expect brands and corporations to provide a means of engagement and participation.”

The top ranking social causes in Australia are improving the quality of healthcare, deemed important by 74% of the population, stopping violence and abuse, salient for 73%, crime reduction and crime prevention, suppored by 70%, and access to water, valued by 65%.

Large, complex and heavily politicised challenges like climate change, pollution and sustainable energy (42%), biodiversity (27)%, or equality for Indigenous Australians (30%), are far less important to Australians than the issues that can directly impact personal life.

Globally more than one in two consumers pegged social purpose as the most important factor in choosing one brand over another when quality and price are the same, placing purpose ahead of  design and innovation and brand loyalty as a purchase trigger. Over the past five years, the relevance of purpose as a purchase factor has risen 26%.

In Australia, the figure is even higher, with 58% stating they would switch brands if a different brand of similar quality supported a good cause. However, this appears to be lip service, according to the research. The nation sits below the global average for actual support of purpose marketing, with 57% purchasing products that support a good cause at least once a year, compared to 84% globally.

Not only does the purpose trigger appear more top of mind for consumers making purchase decisions, but it is also becoming a point consumers will use to recommend brands. 59% are more likely to advocate a brand that supports a good cause over one that doesn’t, while 52% would help a brand promote their products or services if that brand supports a good cause.

The study also claims that Aussie brands are not currently doing a great job in communicating their commitment to purpose, an assertion supported by most Australians with only 29% of of the belief businesses are performing well in addressing social issues.