An Investigation into Corporate Social Responsibility and Its Impact on Consumer Purchasing Behaviour in the Grocery Industry
The UK grocery sector has become increasingly competitive because of the growing excess of supply over demand. To maintain rivalry, organisations have started to look for opportunities for differentiation via, for example, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) (Statista 2020). Thus, the principal objective of this study was to investigate whether CSR activities employed by UK grocery supermarkets are an important influencer in consumer purchasing behaviour. It aimed to determine which supermarket CSR activities are most important to consumers in order to make recommendations to grocery companies in relation to their CSR approach. The study utilised a qualitative methodology through the use of online semi-structured interviews with four customers of the UK’s leading supermarkets: Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda, and Morrisons. This approach proved to be most useful due to the exploratory nature of the study, which required rich and in-depth responses. The purpose of using this methodology was to draw comparisons between existing academic literature and the data obtained. Analysis of the interview results found that, while CSR is an important influencer, it is not the primary factor impacting consumer purchasing behaviour. However, when the price is not significantly higher, despite a positive CSR reputation, CSR activities may be an important factor in buying decisions. Moreover, although consumers are most concerned with areas of animal welfare and environmental issues, they tend to categorise CSR dimensions. While animal welfare is generally associated with companies’ suppliers and has little impact on consumer intentions to patronise a particular store, environmental concerns tend to be attributed to supermarkets themselves, and might, in fact, influence the purchasing behaviour and attitudes of consumers to such stores. Finally, consumers are increasingly CSR-aware and often penalise companies with poor CSR reputations relating mainly to environmental issues.