I just ran across an article in WSJ that answered the question,"How much are consumers are willing to pay for ethically produced goods?" These statistics are only among coffee drinkers (cotton t-shirt buyers had a much narrower range of price elasticity) but it's a good data point that the "conscious consumer" is no longer a niche market segment.
A recent study called Rethinking Corporate Responsibility by Fleishman-Hillard and the National Consumers League gives even more evidence. 52% of consumers seek out the CSR record of specific companies, and 82% say that social responsibility is influential in purchase decisions.
I think most companies understand this and are making efforts to improve their business practices. Some are leading the way and others are lagging, but for the most part I'm optimistic that progress is being made.
What about you... optimistic or pessimistic about businesses' abilities to meet both shareholder and consumer expectations?