According to G&S Business Communication’s 2017 Sense & Sustainability Study, U.S. citizens are placing greater responsibility on government, businesses, and themselves to serve as environmental and social stewards. The study was conducted online by YouGov Plc in August 2017, among 1,158 U.S. adults.
“Businesses and their supply chains are under public scrutiny for their environmental and societal impact, which means industry and government leaders must be prepared to address consumers, employees, investors and voters more directly as part of mainstream audiences,” said Ron Loch, G&S managing director and sustainability consulting leader. “In the intense competition for audience attention, business communicators are best positioned to emotionally connect people with complex topics such as corporate social responsibility and sustainable investing.”
Results were based on a selection of specific groups and how frequently they were ranked in the top three spots. Key findings include:
- Americans believe the public and government each bear the greatest responsibility for keeping society and nature safe along the supply chain. When asked to rank certain groups according to their degree of responsibility for protecting the well being of people and natural resources within the economic process, more than half of Americans pointed to the government (52 percent) and the general public (52 percent) as one of the most significant actors. The next most frequently identified are suppliers that provide ingredients, parts, or processes used in goods and services purchased by customers (46 percent).
- In comparing results before and after the 2016 U.S. presidential election, there are signs that perceptions may be changing about which groups have burdens of environmental and social responsibility. The largest gains were among Americans who believe the greatest responsibility rests with retailers (37 percent in 2017 vs. 30 percent in 2015) and government (52 percent in 2017 vs. 48 percent in 2015). In contrast, there was a notable decline among Americans who ranked non-governmental or “watchdog” organizations (43 percent in 2017 vs. 50 percent in 2015) and religious groups (30 percent in 2017 vs. 35 percent in 2015) as those holding the most responsibility.
- Companies that support economic growth and ecological conservation are viewed most favorably in terms of sustainability efforts. Creating local jobs (57 percent) and conserving natural resources (53 percent) are the business attributes or activities that are most commonly seen as contributing to a company’s positive reputation for sustainability. In contrast, having a celebrity spokesperson promote a company’s sustainability work is barely considered as creating a positive impression (2 percent).
The G&S Study also surveyed 482 U.S. retail investors and found that environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues are important factors in guiding investment decisions. In particular, investors are guided by ESG issues that highlight business impact on individuals: strong customer relationships rooted in respect (81 percent), positive reputation earned for ethical practices by management (74 percent), and fair wages to retain top talent (73 percent).