Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Human Rights and Wildlife Protection Trump Deforestation and Climate Change When Choosing Brands

Human Rights and Wildlife Protection Trump Deforestation and Climate Change When Choosing Brands

  • The 2015 G&S Business Communications Sense & Sustainability® Study is the firm’s sixth annual survey of U.S. adults about their perceptions of the corporate commitment to environmental and social responsibility.
  • Thirty-nine percent of Americans say they do not have a good working knowledge of core scientific concepts, and 40 percent believe they are poorly informed about the ways businesses can practice sustainability.
  • Human rights and wildlife protection trump deforestation and climate change as top environmental and social issues that significantly influence Americans’ brand choices.

NEW YORK, May 12, 2015 – Nearly two in five Americans (39 percent) question their basic understanding of scientific concepts, according to the sixth annual Sense & Sustainability® Study released today by G&S Business Communications (G&S). G&S is a global business communications firm with expertise in corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability for the advanced manufacturing, agribusiness and food, clean technology and energy, consumer, financial and professional services, and home and building markets.

Although environmental and CSR communications from companies taking part in Earth Day and other global movements are certainly on the rise, the study finds that 40 percent of Americans say they are not well informed about how businesses can operate responsibly. Yet, consumers do consider environmental and social causes when making brand choices, with more Americans saying human rights (41 percent) or wildlife protection (33 percent) are “very influential” on their decisions, in comparison to other issues including deforestation (25 percent) or climate change (24 percent). With major businesses having taken a public stance on controversial news about human rights issues, such as state laws regarding marriage equality and the legalization of medical marijuana, it appears that the topics may be weighing heavily on the minds of Americans.

G&S commissioned Harris Poll to conduct the sixth edition of the Sense & Sustainability Study. The survey was fielded online between April 14 and 16, 2015, among 2,055 U.S. adults. The timeframe of the research coincided with the period immediately preceding the 45th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22, 2015, a global event to support environmental protection.

“Science forms the basis for credible sustainability communications, yet narratives that trigger an emotional connection are what can drive the public to take notice and take action,” said Ron Loch, G&S senior vice president and managing director, sustainability consulting. “Deforestation and climate change have a profound impact on human rights and wildlife protection, but it is clear that focusing on benefits motivates audiences more than merely presenting problems. It is time to infuse greater emotional intelligence into CSR communication strategies, which can be more effective in influencing collective behavior along an organization’s entire supply chain.”

Key findings include the following:
  • Nearly 40 percent of Americans question their practical understanding of science. Although 61 percent believe they have a good working knowledge of core scientific concepts, nearly two in five (39 percent) feel they do not have a solid comprehension.
  • Two in five U.S. adults do not feel well informed about the ways businesses can practice sustainability. Among Americans, 40 percent say they have an insufficient grasp of how companies can practice sustainability concerning the well-being of the planet, people and communities.
  • A growing number of Americans are choosing to stay uninformed about the sustainability efforts of businesses. One-quarter of U.S. adults (25 percent) do not rely on any sources to learn about business efforts to promote corporate social and environmental responsibility, an increase from 20 percent last year. Year-over-year findings also show that advertisements (27 percent in 2015 vs. 37 percent in 2014) and corporate websites (14 percent in 2015 vs. 20 percent in 2014) have sharply fallen out of favor as sources for information about business initiatives related to CSR or sustainability. In contrast, in the past two years the news media (54 percent in 2015 vs. 57 percent in 2014) and word-of-mouth among trusted personal contacts (40 percent in 2015 vs. 41 percent in 2014) hold steady as the top two sources of CSR and green business information.
  • Human rights and wildlife protection are among the top environmental and social issues that significantly influence consumers’ brand choices. In making decisions about which brands to support, at least one-third of Americans identify human rights (41 percent) and wildlife protection (33 percent) as “very influential” social and environmental issues as compared to deforestation (25 percent), climate change (24 percent), fair trade (21 percent) and carbon footprint (19 percent).
  • Agriculture, energy, and food and beverage industries lead with positive reputations for sustainability while manufacturing, leisure services and transportation lag. Among the industries measured, Americans rank agriculture (47 percent), energy (40 percent), and food and beverage (36 percent) in the top three with the best reputations for environmental and social responsibility. In comparison, the industries that trail among those measured for best sustainability reputations are: Transportation, which includes vehicle manufacturers, airlines, rail, infrastructure and logistics (19 percent); leisure services, which include hotels, cruise lines, casinos and restaurants (17 percent); and manufacturing (14 percent).
  • Companies can take specific actions to improve their CSR reputations. More than two-thirds of Americans say businesses can contribute to their positive reputations for sustainability by conserving natural resources (72 percent) or supporting environmental or social causes (66 percent). In contrast, having a celebrity spokesperson (8 percent) is less likely to have a positive effect on corporate reputations for sustainability.

G&S has a long-established communications record in sustainability consulting, corporate social responsibility, and successfully launching and guiding the growth of green products, technologies and practices. The firm counsels a growing number of clients to help them align sustainability to their corporate strategies, produce compelling sustainability reports, and engage key stakeholders in constructive dialogue.


To obtain a summary of the G&S Sense & Sustainability® Study, please visit the company’s website.

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