Companies in recent years have internalized the notion that taking a stance on some of the pressing social, environmental and political challenges facing the world today is a great way to build awareness and engender a favorable public perception.

As it turns out, however, data now suggests that staying mum on these issues also has its own value, and might be the safe bet for businesses looking to avoid a PR backlash, according to a recent survey conducted by D.C.-based research and consulting firm Clutch.

Clutch’s survey offers a rare caveat for today’s corporate advocacy endeavors and other social responsibility initiatives in the sense that it suggests businesses that remain silent on social or political issues run a lower chance of losing customers than those that take a stand.

According to the survey, nearly two-thirds of consumers (63 percent) claim they’re likely to continue shopping at businesses that stay silent on issues they care about. A smaller percentage of consumers, however (58 percent), said they’d continue shopping at a business that takes a stance on an issue with which they disagree.  

Suffice to say, speaking out in today’s divisive political and social climate always carries some attendant risk, as the move could alienate existing advocates, not to mention the possible backlash that can occur if a company loses control of the intended message.

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Which social issues do people think businesses should support?

The Clutch survey found that 15 percent of consumers are likely to stop shopping with a company that speaks out on political issues in a manner with which they disagree, and 10 percent said the same about companies that address issues related to gender. Only five percent said their buying decisions would be deterred by companies’ stances on human rights issues, and only two percent cited environmental stances as a deal-breaker.

A majority of respondents (71 percent) also remain adamant that they want businesses to speak out on social issues, and more than half (52 percent) think businesses should also air their sociopolitical stances publicly via social media.

Consumers particularly want businesses to tackle issues related to the environment (89 percent), human rights (80 percent), gender (74 percent) and politics (56 percent). 

Clutch’s “2019 PR and Corporate Social Responsibility Survey” polled 420 U.S. consumers who reported making a purchase within the last six months. Research was conducted at the end of December using brand intelligence research company Survata.