INNOVATION: Identifying personality characteristics that significantly increase the likelihood that an individual will support innovative "CSR" …corporate social resposibility

Prone to Progress?: New study shows that some personality types more likely to support companies with a cause

CHICAGO, June 12, 2012 —
New research in the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing , published by the American Marketing Association, identifies two personality characteristics that significantly increase the likelihood that an individual will support innovative “social entrepreneurial” firms.

Social entrepreneurial firms (or “social enterprise”) who use typically profit-based business models to solve social needs founded with a particular social cause in mind. Such firms include Kiva, a microfinance website, and Tom’s, a shoe retailer that donates one pair of shoes for every pair bought. Such firms are growing in number each year.

This research, conducted by Dr. Stacy Wood at North Carolina State University, used a large survey that asked consumers about six different social entrepreneurial ventures. Three of these ventures featured innovations that were more social in nature. Three of the ventures were innovations that were more technological in nature such as EnSol, a firm that helps commercialize new thin-film solar cell energy applications.

The survey also included a battery of personality tests that measured a broad spectrum of personality traits of each respondent. The data show that, while many personality traits don’t influence a respondent’s intention to support the venture, there were two traits that had a significant impact on the likelihood of support. Interestingly, these traits differed by the type of venture.

For example, people high in empathy were shown to be more supportive of social innovations and people high in openness were more supportive of technological innovations. The data suggests that both of these effects occur because these people were better able to envision the big changes that could occur through the innovation and that “bigger change is better” in this domain.

“Given the diversity of the social enterprises considered,” according to Dr. Wood, “it is amazing that any one personality trait was so influential. I hope that these findings aid social entrepreneurs by helping them better use their limited marketing resources to identify and target those people who are most likely to support them.”

The article, “Prone to Progress: Using Personality to Identify Supporters of Innovative Social Entrepreneurship,” appears in the Spring 2012 issue of the Journal of Public Policy & Marketing.

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