Cynical UK Public Disbelieve Companies’ CSR Claims

New research shows a deep public cynicism about companies’ claims of action on the important CSR issue of climate change.

The research, from business and environment experts The Carbon Trust, found that only 7% of people believe companies’ claims about actions they’ve taken to reduce their environmental impact. 66% are sceptical as to whether firms are genuinely cutting carbon emissions as part of their overall CSR strategies.

The Carbon Trust asked people if they wanted firms to commit to a 3% emissions reduction. This is what is required for the UK to meet its 2050 targets. Unsurprisingly, 90% did. Those questioned said that climate change was the greatest threat facing the environment – hence their desire for action.

Transparency emerged as an important theme, with 70% of people wanting businesses to be forced to reveal their carbon emissions. 56% said they were more worried now about business action to reduce climate change than they were five years ago.

A major public concern around the CSR issue of environment in general and climate change in particular is a lack of business authenticity. 53% of those questioned feared that firms just make one-off improvements for publicity reasons.

It would appear that most consumers (60%) are looking for third party endorsement from bodies they respect before they are willing to believe corporate claims of CSR action on the environment. The first place they look for evidence about corporate climate change claims is search engines.

However, companies which can demonstrate transparency – and verified action on tackling environmental issues – will definitely benefit. 56% of people said they were more loyal to brands that can show, at a glance, evidence of action. 53% said they want to work for companies which can clearly demonstrate commitment to reducing their impact on climate change.

The Carbon Trust joined forces with BrandZ to conduct brand analysis on how members of the public are reacting to CSR claims about the environment. They found that, in analysing the most powerful brands, environmental responsibility is one of the top characteristics of leading companies. This is a powerful motivator for consumers. On average, 80% of sales are generated by the product brand, but a solid 20% of sales are directly linked to corporate reputation. In breaking down that category further, at least 2% of sales are attributable directly to environmental reputation.

Harry Morrison, General Manager of the Carbon Trust Standard, an independent verification system of corporate action on climate change, said that green washing, over claiming and excessive jargon has created mistrust. However, it’s not all doom and gloom.

He said: “The good news is that by taking voluntary action now to measure, manage and reduce their impacts, there are huge opportunities for brands to stand out from the crowd.”

The research launches to coincide with the start of Climate Week, in which I personally am involved. This aims to raise awareness around climate change and to inspire businesses, communities and individuals to take action themselves.

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