By Ophelia Jeffrey, Account Executive
As environmental and social challenges gain prominence within the public discourse, the role that corporations can play in exacerbating these issues has come under intense scrutiny. The cultural tide has turned dramatically against any perceived exploitation of supply chains and workers, leading to the widespread adoption of more sustainable and ethical business models.
In the last year, this trend has gained decisive public attention. A burgeoning collective consciousness, propelled by younger generations, has led to an indignant outcry against businesses misrepresenting their brand to appeal to these consumers without implementing any tangible ESG policies.
While this tactic may have seen some initial success in pulling the wool over stakeholders’ eyes, it is now known as greenwashing: a claim that can single-handedly sink a corporation.
While people feel strongly about corporations ignoring their ESG responsibilities, they feel even more strongly about those corporations that falsify efforts to address these issues for commercial gain – particularly the younger generation, with its typically heightened concern around the importance of future-proofing the planet.
The evidence is damning: a recent study conducted by OnePoll on behalf of the newly certified B-Corp, Coutts, revealed that 52% of all 18- to 24-year-olds would boycott a brand if they discovered they were greenwashing. What’s more, over a quarter of this age group would then actively encourage others to do the same.
By comparison, only six per cent of those aged over 65 felt this reaction to greenwashing was proportionate. In fact, it appears that the generation gap is more of a generation gulf, with 74% of 18- to 34-year-olds going on to say they believe that big corporations should publish an audited impact statement every year. It is abundantly clear that the social and environmental impact of business is a priority to the younger generations and that impact investing communications should be equally prioritised by businesses looking to attract this generation of consumers
When it comes to making promises about ESG and sustainability, the statistics speak for themselves. Being transparent in the pursuit of better ethical practices and following through on commitments lie at the foundation of society’s evolving expectations. The act of greenwashing is an agnostic underestimation of the depth of these social sentiments.
At its heart is the need for greater accountability, and empty promises will no longer cut it with consumers. Clearly, for most people, the appearance of progress is insufficient; these strategies must be fully embedded into the fabric of a business’ culture and overall strategy, evident in every decision they make.
At Aspectus, we understand that ESG is not a passing trend that businesses can simply jump on the back of in order to score cheap points with stakeholders. It’s clear from the findings outlined above that consumers are more than capable of distinguishing between brands with a genuine aspiration for better social practices and those who have simply recognised the shift in consumer habits and are looking to exploit them without fully comprehending the associated responsibilities.
With our team of ESG PR experts, Aspectus is perfectly poised to help you effectively communicate a meaningful ESG strategy and carve out a space in the already crowded landscape.
Get in contact to find out more about ESG communications.