Two-thirds of Brits sceptical of sustainability-related business communications

Consumers have lost trust due to past instances of brands over-stating their positive impact

That is one of the headline findings of a new poll of 4,700 people, conducted by YouGov on behalf of GOOD Agency. The results of the survey were published today (15 April).

As has been the case with several previous pieces of recent research, the survey revealed that most consumers want to choose purpose-led, sustainable brands when possible, with cost and time constraints ranked as the top barrier to doing so. Half of those surveyed said they do not have the time or money to shop ethically as much as they would like.

But the poll also revealed that two-thirds of respondents believe that current communications campaigns designed to showcase brand purpose “all look the same or very similar”. Respondents spoke of “cliché” tropes and confusing jargon around topics relating to ethics, community work, climate and nature.

This perception is one of several contributors to scepticism, according to the report. 68% of those polled said brands need to work harder to avoid purpose-washing and greenwashing communications. Around seven in ten said business’s current commitments are not ambitious enough to meaningfully contribute to addressing the world’s biggest problems.

A tried-and-tested way for brands to build trust on these communications is proof of successful initiatives in the past. Seven in ten of the respondents said they would trust a brand’s claims about purpose more if they have a proven track record of delivering benefits to nature and people. Most respondents agreed, however, that it is more important that businesses that are lagging now accelerate action in the future, as they believe there is still time left to solve challenges like climate change and socio-economic inequalities within and between geographies.

“Purpose is no longer niche or premium; it is now mass market and expected of business and brands alike,” the report states. It outlines how the way in which businesses without a long history of positive performance will need to fine-tune communications based on the personas which account for the largest portion of their respective audiences.

GOOD Agency’s chief executive Chris Norman wrote: “The idea that business has a role beyond profit used to be radical; now, it is a given, thanks to shifting sentiments and priorities.

“This groundswell of public expectation is reflected in our research as we identify shifting sentiments and priorities amongst the UK population. Our findings indicate that 2021 will be the year for action: for brands and for people.”

Greenwashing concerns

The publication of the survey results comes after separate research from The International Consumer Protection Enforcement Network (ICPEN) found that four in ten corporate websites are hosting claims that are potentially greenwashing or purpose-washing.

Common techniques include over-stating the importance or impact of environmental initiatives; misusing buzzwords or jargon; using vague language and using misleading pictures or symbols.

Join the conversation at edie’s ENGAGE 2021 online event 

Readers interested in sustainability communications won’t want to miss edie’s online ENGAGE event on Thursday 6 May. The event consists of three sessions designed to inspire and empower attendees to apply best practice to communications, reporting and engagement work. 

Expert speakers from the likes of Clear Channel, Toast Ale, Virgin Media, Reconomy and JRP Solutions have already been confirmed for the online event, with more speakers and partners to be announced over the coming days. The event runs from 1-4pm BST and ticket holders will be able to stream the recording on-demand after the sessions. 

Please note: You must pay to access this online event. Tickets purchased before Thursday 22 April will cost £39+VAT. Tickets purchased thereafter will cost £49+VAT

For full information and registration, click here. 

Sarah George

Comments (1)

  1. Andrew Cox says:

    Not everyone believes greenwash and propaganda from large companies and government. Luckily, a percentage of the population are still not completely brainwashed and have some higher cognative functions and can spot BS!

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