UK consumers are growing weary of social media pledges as a way for companies to support environmental and social causes, with less than a third (32%) believing it to be the most effective way to do so, according to SurveyMonkey research from Momentive.

The research looks at consumers’ attitudes toward companies’ environmental, social, privacy, and labour practices alongside their perceptions of companies’ impact on society, amid continued political turbulence, rising cost of living and the climate emergency.

With consumer habits becoming largely impacted by both the financial and energy crisis, businesses need to take action. Half (50%) of UK consumers find donations to sustainable causes and partnerships with organisations (43%) the most effective ways for a business to create tangible change. With this in mind, it’s important for businesses to take stock of their ESG commitments and move past offering their words as a way to combat the societal and environmental issues that are impacting consumers.

Social and green causes still top priority for consumers, despite a tumultuous environment

Although fears around the future of our climate are growing, young people are becoming more concerned with businesses’ societal footprints. Half of people (50%) aged 18-34 noted social impact as the most important aspect of how a business is run, higher than environmental concerns (40%) and governance, at just a tenth (9%).

However, this doesn’t mean that green causes have slipped off the agenda. Despite the financial crisis many are facing in the UK with rising energy costs and inflation at an all time high at 10.1%, over half (51%) of people still plan to dedicate more money to spend on green and sustainable products.

With green and social causes still a top priority for consumers, how are businesses expected to respond in this crucial time? The research found that among Brits, they were sceptical of companies who publicise their stance on important issues via advertisements or on social media platforms with just 29% and 32% respectively finding these means the most effective means for businesses to support ESG issues, far below providing donations to suitable causes (50%).

So, despite 41% of Brits admitting that they use social media as one of their main sources of information to learn about social and environmental causes, they aren’t won over by empty words from companies on these platforms.

The talent war can be won by fulfilled ESG promises

It’s not only consumer attitudes companies should keep in mind. On top of social media and advertisements falling short, only 30% of people noted that employee support and resource groups were a good way for companies to support social and green initiatives.

Further to this three quarters (76%) of people said that it was very important to them that they work at a company that prioritises social and environmental issues while 67% were willing to take a pay cut to work at a company which puts these issues first.

In a period that has been dubbed, “The Great Resignation”, and at a time when there is a battle for talent and skills, it’s vital that businesses reassess how they involve employees in ESG plans and how they present themselves to future candidates.
Working together to create change

Although many respondents have sustainable expectations of companies, the research shows that there is still room for improvement in their own behaviour. While 82% of Brits say they recycle, other sustainable behaviour lags far behind:

Use less disposable plastic – 61%
Repairing products (rather than replacing them) – 49%
Using energy efficient appliances – 48%
Buy second hand products – 44%
Using alternative transport – 42%
Eat less meat – 35%
Composting food – 36%
Using solar power – 14%
Using a vehicle with low emissions – 13%

Jon Cohen, chief research officer at Momentive says: “It’s critical that UK companies follow through on their ESG commitments even in the face of deep financial strains, a global energy crisis, and a looming recession. Consumers in the UK are hyper-aware of whether businesses are following through on their ESG protestations, and the new research shows that social-media claims and marketing pushes are clearly insufficient. It’s vital that companies pay attention to what consumers need and what they have promised.”

Study methodology:
This study was conducted between July 23-26, 2022 among a national sample of 1,514 adults in the US, 1,513 in the UK, 1,514 in Ireland, and 1,514 in the Netherlands. Respondents for this survey were selected from the more than 2 million people who take surveys on our platform each day. The modelled error estimate for this survey is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. Data were balanced via quotas for age, gender, and geography using data provided by the United Nations.