Survey: Nine in ten Brits don’t trust climate claims from businesses

These are key findings from a comprehensive survey of more than 1,000 adults in the UK, jointly conducted by marketing and advertising giant Dentsu and the Conscious Advertising Network (CAN). The results were published this week.

Survey participants were asked whether they trust businesses to follow science-based recommendations to reduce their climate impact and build climate resilience.

Only 12% said they think businesses always take this approach, while 14% think businesses never act in this way. The majority believe businesses only base climate targets and strategies on science some of the time, or when it suits them.

This is contributing to distrust in climate-related claims from businesses and brands. Just 9% of those surveyed trust brands to accurately portray their climate commitments and progress, thus avoiding greenwashing.

In comparison, one-quarter believe businesses are always greenwashing with their climate-related claims.

The survey found that most people do not want to support businesses which are deliberately greenwashing, or otherwise supporting the spread of climate-related misinformation and disinformation. 45% said they would stop buying from, or otherwise supporting, businesses accused of funding climate disinformation. And one-fifth would stop using a digital platform, like a social media app, if it failed to stop the proliferation of falsehoods on climate.

CAN co-founder Jake Dubbins said: “Businesses need to recognise that association with climate disinformation not only undermines their credibility and reputation but also jeopardises their long-term viability in a world increasingly focused on sustainability.

“By actively distancing themselves from disinformation and ensuring messaging aligns with climate science, companies can contribute to a more informed public discourse, bolster consumer trust, and safeguard their future in a changing economic and environmental landscape.”

Net-zero confusion

Nonetheless, the survey also revealed that most people are at least somewhat susceptible to climate misinformation and disinformation. Eight in ten of those surveyed believed at least one of these falsehoods:

  • Climate change is either not happening, or not primarily caused by human actions
  • Reaching net-zero by 2050 would be unaffordable for the UK
  • Net-zero and climate policies will increase poverty and unemployment
  • Rapid decarbonisation is not needed to ensure the prosperity and welfare of the global population
  • Reducing emissions is a form of ‘self-inflicted harm’ that punishes citizens
  • We have already passed the threshold where climate change is irreversible, and there is no point taking action
  • The electricity grid will never be able to handle increased electric vehicle uptake

Belief in these statements was found to be higher among men than women. Millennials were the most susceptible generation.

The most commonly perception across all demographics– believed by three-quarters of the total survey base – is that the transition to net-zero is unaffordable.

The Climate Change Committee (CCC) has estimated the net cost of the transition at 0.5% to 1% of GDP per year, with the cost of inaction or a disjointed and disorderly transition being far higher. The Office for Budget Responsibility has also reached the conclusion that adapting will be more expensive and result in more economic risk.

Fears around the cost of the transition have been stoked by the Conservative Party and Reform UK ahead of next month’s general election.

Reform UK is the only party with a commitment to scrap the UK’s legally binding net-zero target altogether. It would also axe a range of supporting policies including subsidies for renewable energy, the ban on fracking and requirements for automakers to transition to electric.

The Conservatives would keep the 2050 net-zero target but have made several changes to the delivery strategy in recent months, against the advice of the CCC, in the name of reducing costs on households. Party Leader Rishi Sunak has watered down key policies relating to low-carbon heating, building energy efficiency and electric transport, while forging ahead with oil and gas expansion in the North Sea.

Comments (1)

  1. David Haspel says:

    It is absolutely vital that the world and the UK meet the 2050 targets.
    The warnings were written large back in 2007 with Al Gore’s wake up call.
    It was obvious well before then that the normal post glacial cooling of the earth had reversed and was beginning to warm up, post the start of industrialisation and very obvious by the start of the millennium.
    I fear for my children and even more so for my grandchildren.

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