Climate Action

New report finds less than a quarter of British public trust ESG claims

A new report by Sensu Insight finds that less than a quarter (23%) of the British public take ESG claims at face value.

  • 06 January 2023
  • Press Release

A new report by Sensu Insight finds that less than a quarter (23%) of the British public take ESG claims at face value.

Accusations of greenwashing, sportswashing and corporate virtue signalling are on the rise. Collectively, the global profile for these terms has increased 46% over the last year, with media mentions up by 68% over the same period. .

The new report explores the findings of a survey showing how the public perceive such communications, what they believe and who they trust, which sectors are seen to be succeeding and those that need to work harder to be believed. It also looks at the impact and importance of communicating ESG effectively, how consumers and employee behaviours are being influenced by perceptions of corporate ethics and the scale of the issue for UK businesses.

The report found that there is considerable public suspicion about corporate ESG claims, with less than a quarter (23%) of the public take ESG claims at face value. 14% of people say they typically disbelieve claims. 30% expect the claim to have been exaggerated, 71% don’t think that the claim is likely to have been verified or checked by an independent expert or regulator.

The report notes the clear divide in those sectors where we place our trust on ESG matters. Those most likely to be believed are supermarkets and major retailers, technology companies and food or drink manufacturers.
We are much less likely to trust claims from airlines, car manufacturers and fashion brands.

The public trust independent experts - the commentators most likely to believed are bodies with expertise in ESG matters. Their opinion is trusted more than what is reported in the media or commentary on social media.
62% said they were likely or very likely to believe commentary from independent experts such as the Energy Saving Trust or similar organisations. Next most influential were international organisations such as the UN (56% likely or very likely to believe), and pressure groups such as Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth (55%). Of the media or social media influencers, national broadcast media reports carry most weight (53%) and national ‘broadsheet’ media (43%).

The public want greater transparency - 89% of the public said that they cared about the environmental stance of businesses and brands. 86% wanted an increase in their level of transparency on environmental matters.
Only 8% agreed that most businesses currently do enough for the environment.

Read the full report here.