Almost three-quarters (73 percent) of global consumers surveyed are willing to recommend companies that are perceived to be delivering on their social responsibility programs, according to a new study from Reputation Institute.

But while consumer support for companies perceived to be socially responsible is strong, the number of companies believed to be actually delivering on their CSR programs has dropped dramatically from 12 in 2012 to only five in the 2013 study.

“This highlights a major issue for companies who are investing millions in corporate responsibility campaigns and initiatives,” says Kasper Ulf Nielsen, executive partner at Reputation Institute. “Where is their return on investment with consumers?”

The Global CSR RepTrak 100 study surveyed more than 55,000 consumers from 15 countries and found that 59 percent say they would go out of their way to communicate something positive about companies they see as being good corporate citizens, compared to only 23 percent for companies perceived to be weak in this area.

“In a world where word of mouth is becoming your number one marking tool, this is a key business driver that companies need to leverage better,” says Nielsen.

According to CB Bhattacharya, professor in corporate responsibility at European School of Management & Technology, “Unfortunately, Corporate Responsibility is still equated to philanthropy in many organizations and hence, given short shrift when it comes to strategic formulation and implementation. Although the top 100 companies all have well developed websites detailing their CR initiatives, how many of them do rigorous research to find out how their key stakeholders view these same initiatives?”

For the second year in a row, the CSR RepTrak 100 study named Microsoft the company with the best CSR reputation. This year, the technology company was joined at the top in a four-way tie with The Walt Disney Company, Google, and BMW.

Microsoft placed first in three out of the four regions where the study was conducted (North America, Latin America, and Asia Pacific). The Walt Disney Company placed first in EMEA—the fourth region.

In terms of rankings for the three reputation dimensions that drive consumer CSR perceptions (Citizenship, Governance, and Workplace):
• The Walt Disney Company has the best perception for Citizenship. Approximately 50% of consumers surveyed agree that Disney is a good corporate citizen that supports good causes and protects the environment.
• BMW has the best perception for Governance. Approximately 49% of consumers across the 15 markets agree that BMW is a responsibly-run company that behaves ethically and is open and transparent in its business dealings.
• Google has the best perception for Workplace. Fifty-one percent of consumers across the 15 markets agree that Google is an appealing place to work who treats its employees well.