How women’s demand for social impact is changing the future of value-driven business
In the ongoing aftermath of the pandemic and subsequent economic disruptions, our team saw a need for new consumer insights to support brands’ value realignment and social impact strategies. We knew from our own experience that consumer expectations had changed as a result of a global pandemic, racial justice movements, the Great Resignation, and inflation. Ultimately, we found that American consumers, especially women, have lost patience with brands that are not proactively improving both their social and environmental impact.
We asked over 850 individuals across the country how a brand’s values influence their purchases and investments. Since 2020, female consumers have changed to support socially and environmentally conscious businesses.
Brands cannot afford to ignore the priorities of this significant market segment. American women have long wielded the purchasing power in their households, and as of 2019, women direct 83% of all consumption in the country.(1)
Women’s market influence is dramatically increasing. Now, as compared to just four years ago, 50% more women are investing their savings—and generally outperforming their male counterparts in the process.(2) Additional data predicts women will hold two-thirds of the private wealth in the US in the next ten years.(3) These trends have only accelerated with the economic uncertainty of today.
Women are taking impact seriously—and expecting the same out of brands.
According to our findings, since 2020, 50% of women report they are now more aware of social inequities and nearly that same percentage report they are now more aware of environmental issues. Only 34% and 36% of men say the same. This awareness has become an intrinsic part of women’s identities as 49% consider themselves socially conscious and 40% consider themselves eco-conscious.
Women are also demanding that brands rethink their impact on the world. Over a third of our women respondents (36%) say they now expect organizations and brands to actively do more good; 62% say companies need to prioritize having a positive environmental impact; and 52% say companies need to prioritize having a positive social impact.
Two-thirds (66%) of women say businesses have a high-to-very-high responsibility for improving the world—even a greater share of responsibility than for nonprofits/foundations (62.44%). Female consumers are deeply aware of the impact potential businesses have and increasingly want them to drive positive change. In fact, 87% believe companies should operate with a triple bottom line: social, environmental, and financial.
Women put their money where their mouth is
Organizations could start falling behind if their missions and practices prioritize profits over people and the planet. Our survey revealed approximately 3 out of every 4 women have actively researched an organization’s impact over the past year. Over the past two years, 59% of women say they have stopped supporting a company because their actions do not align with their values.
On the other hand, women are willing to actively champion an organization that aligns with their values. We found 81% of women report that they are willing to spend more on a company or brand that aligns with their values. While this percentage is comparable to men, but 62% of women are willing to spend 10–20% more than their male counterparts for value aligned products and services. Furthermore, they follow and promote these brands on social media, tell their peers and family to purchase from them, and even donate time and money to their causes.
Women who live in households making over $100K per year identified as being the most eco and socially conscious among the surveyed groups as well as the most likely to use their capital for brands that are making a positive impact. These women are almost twice as likely as men of the same socioeconomic status to care about gender or racial inequities in leadership; 60% more likely to stop supporting a company if they are prioritizing profit over the planet; and 49% more likely to stop supporting a company if they are prioritizing profit over people.
What this means for US brands
These data should startle brands that are just beginning to think about their impact on people and the planet. Nearly half of women (49%) have become more skeptical of companies’ and brands’ messaging over the last two years. Given the sheer purchasing power of women in the U.S. and the inclination of the modern woman consumer to do their research before making a purchase, expect little patience for greenwashing and unvetted claims.
Women value trustworthy and accessible information, and brands need to communicate that information to them through evidence-based and reliable channels. The majority of women surveyed turn to companies’ websites, impact reports, social media, and friends and family to evaluate companies’ impact on people and the planet. Brands need to share their partnerships, data, and values where their consumers can find it.
As part of this trust-building, brands can diversify their leadership teams, account accurately for the share of female consumers in their target market, and realign their values with their consumers. In doing so, brands will become more value-driven and leverage their power for positive social and environmental impact. Only then will they remain competitive in a post-2020 marketplace.
When women were disproportionately impacted by a global pandemic, they became more empathetic toward social and environmental issues. American women are not afraid to back what they stand for with their dollars, and they expect brands to do the same.
(1) “Beyond the VC Funding Gap.” Morgan Stanley, 2019. (2) “2021 Women and Investing Study.” Fidelity Investments, 2021. (3) “Women and Wealth” RBC Wealth Management, 2022.