According to research released this week by NAVEX Global®, only 25% of consumers believe businesses are primarily motivated to undertake environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives to make a positive difference to the world. Moreover, 55% of businesses agree it’s more about the bottom line than their impact on the world. 

They further found that less than a half of consumers (49%) trust brands that say they’re sustainably and ethically driven in their marketing and branding, or that they are aiming to achieve net-zero by a certain date (47%). Only 15% of decision-makers are completely confident that all the materials their organisations use are responsibly sourced.   

74% of consumers think leaders must do more for the planet  

an image showing a person buying in a sustainable and zero waste way.

While talk of ESG issues might be dominating the headlines, it’s widely believed more can be done. According to this research, 74% of consumers, and 85% of businesses agree that most organizations could do significantly more on their efforts to be ethical and sustainable.  

However, only 25% of consumers think making a positive difference in the world is one of businesses’ top two motivations for undertaking ESG efforts. Additionally, only 27% of businesses say ESG investment is one of their top three priorities for the next financial year, even though over half (55%) of consumers think it should be a top-three priority. 

However, when it comes to who they believe is responsible for enacting change, businesses and their organisations come out top. Half of the businesses (50%) think that their organisations are responsible for ensuring ethical and sustainable practices. At the same time, 32% feel the government should be taking responsibility for this too. 

Will businesses risk losing their customers?  

an image showing a person holding a a piece of earth in his hand as a message of the businesses impact on the world.

What businesses should be concerned about is that almost 59% of consumers say they would stop doing business with a company if there were negative news about their ethical and sustainable practices. 

Moreover, 54% believe that only businesses that uphold standards in these areas will continue to be successful in the future. Furthermore, 57% of those aged 18-25 say they’ve stopped buying from a brand because they did not consider it sustainable or ethical. 

What we find particularly interesting is that 60% of B2B businesses say they agree their customers will leave them if they fail to demonstrate ethical and sustainable practices in the future. However, less than half (45%) of consumer businesses agree with this.  

To give credit where it’s due, a lot more organisations are playing their part, arguably it’s not enough, but we have to start somewhere to see the ripple effects in the coming years. What’s important is that it is for the right reasons. Ethics and sustainability are major issues in our fight to save the planet and businesses that are driven by that, rather than the bottom line, will engage with customers more authentically and build trust where it’s lacking‘, said Fathia Murphy, ESG Product Specialist, NAVEX Global. 

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