Shoppers are becoming more socially conscious and are ditching brands they believe fail to meet their ethical standards, a new survey has found.

The MediaCom study of 2,000 respondents found as many as 80% say brands must take steps to minimise environmental impact.

But 65% believe brands overstate their environmental credentials and a further 45% admit to being very sceptical of any brands that claim to support good causes.

Some 40% of consumers have either stopped using, or never used, a brand because of its values or behaviours. And 63% believe brands have a responsibility to give back to society.

Pauline Robson, managing partner and head of MediaCom’s research arm Real World Insight, said even those brands that did have good values or behaviours at their heart faced a challenge in convincing the public they were genuine and could be trusted.

Almost half – 49% – of respondents say they are willing to pay more for a brand that supports a cause which is important to them – a figure that climbs to 60% in 18-24-year-olds.

More young people than older people have bought a branded product specifically because of its chosen values or beliefs – 49% compared with 35%.

Robson said: “It’s our belief that we, as a society, are heading towards mass adoption of purpose. Overall, there is an increasing awareness of and focus on what a brand stands for – to the point where many people are willing to buy more and pay more for a company they feel makes a positive impact.

“What brand can afford to ignore that? Working to make a positive impact on society isn’t a ‘nice to have’, it should be part of a brand’s DNA and a pillar of any communications and interactions with consumers. It can make your brand stand apart from the competition.”