CSR in the world of Children

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Previous consumer-oriented Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) research has mainly focused on adult’s responses and perceptions, while child-consumers have largely been ignored. To the best of the author’s knowledge, this is the first empirical research which addresses the influence of CSR activities of brands in relation to children (age 8-12) as consumers. The present research explores how aware children (age 8-12) are regarding the CSR activities of brands, and if they are, how these CSR activities influence the way in which children form moral evaluations toward brands. A total of 25 in-depth interviews were conducted among 8- and 12-year-old boys and girls in the Netherlands. Subsequently, the parent of each child was interviewed as well to get a better understanding of the child’s thoughts and feelings. The findings show that children can be aware of the (irresponsible) CSR activities of brands. Children who are aware vary between the age of 9 to 12, while nearly all 8-year-olds are unaware of the CSR activities of brands. Most CSR activities children mentioned are related to environmental issues (e.g. use of plastic) and social-ethical issues (e.g. child labor). Furthermore, most children obtained a deeper CSR awareness toward a particular industry. The (irresponsible) CSR activities of brands influence children’s moral evaluations to judge them as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. CSR activities can even be perceived as favorable and/or unique by children which can benefit positive brand judgment. Furthermore, the CSR activities of one brand can influence children’s moral evaluation of other brands in the related category as well. More interesting, the present research provides indications that (irresponsible) CSR activities could, in some cases, influence children’s behavior toward the brands based on their associations and attitudes. This may suggest that increasing children’s CSR awareness could support them in translating their desire to be sustainable into their consumption behavior. This study identifies three possible factors that could indicate the differences found in awareness and attitudes among children regarding the (irresponsible) CSR activities of brands, which potentially could result in changed behavior: (1) Motivation: perceiving CSR as personally relevant, having concerns regarding CSR, and having persistent beliefs about what is good or bad. (2) Ability: cognitive abilities due to the child’s age and the influence of their social environment in which the parents play a more prominent role. (3) Opportunity: the direct experiences the child has with the brand and the complexity of the CSR activity (e.g. observable/non-observable).
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen