G&S Sense & Sustainability Studies – Register to download 2019 edition

Human Rights and Worker Equity Grow More Influential in U.S. Consumer Purchasing Decisions

Public sentiment has intensified about the ways businesses can take purposeful action in helping people, communities and the environment to thrive, according to the 10th annual Sense & Sustainability® Study, released today by G&S Business Communications (G&S). The opinion poll was conducted online by YouGov Plc for G&S in August 2019 among 1,330 U.S. adults.

The 2019 survey focused on these primary areas:

  • Business actions that contribute to a positive reputation for sustainability;
  • Familiarity with business practices related to environmental and social responsibility;
  • Impact of environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors on consumer  decisions;
  • Sustainability efforts in two industries—healthcare and home and building—and their impact on individuals and communities; and,
  • Sources for information about companies’ environmental and social responsibility initiatives.

For the 10th edition of the Sense & Sustainability Study, G&S selected two industries—healthcare, and home and building—as focal points to gauge U.S. attitudes about the benefits of sustainability practices and green products, for both individuals and communities.

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Key Findings

U.S. consumers making buying decisions note the growing influence of companies with responsible supply chains.

  • There are sharp increases in consumers’ likelihood to purchase from companies whose suppliers comply with human rights or compensation laws (76%, up from 68% in 2018) and businesses offering fair wages to retain top employees (74%, up from 68% in 2018).
  • Most Americans view the creation of local jobs (55%) and conservation of natural resources (52%) as helpful in forming a positive business reputation for social and environmental responsibility.
  • In ranking certain groups for their roles in protecting society and nature throughout the supply chain, Americans assign the greatest responsibility to the general public (52%). The government is the second-most frequently cited, but at a significantly lower rate than last year (49%, down from 55% in 2018).

However, Americans are unsure or skeptical about where to turn for information about corporate social responsibility or sustainability efforts.

  • Six in 10 believe bad news tends to dim good news in green business coverage.
  • Strikingly, more than half of survey takers (59%) are either unsure of corporate efforts to share news about improving the environment and society, or believe that companies are doing a poor job communicating it.

Key Findings: Healthcare Industry

In considering healthcare industry solutions with sustainability benefits for both communities and their own households, Americans are more likely to recognize the greater good.

  • Many Americans say healthtech solutions that eliminate travel, which also reduce fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, benefit both their daily lives and their communities (both at 38%).
  • Nutrition and wellness education about diets consisting of low carbon-impact ingredients has a similarly positive effect, both on a personal level (40%) and at the community level (39%).
  • U.S. adults see healthcare institutions that adopt eco-friendly practices as having a more favorable impact on their local communities (45%) versus their daily lives (39%).
  • More choose none of the options offered for health-focused solutions when thinking about the positive difference made in their daily lives (26%) as opposed to local communities (22%), revealing a potential opportunity for the healthcare industry to provide more education about its green practices.
  • Fifty-eight percent believe the news media is inclined to report bad news more than good news in green business coverage about healthcare companies.
  • However, most (60%) are either unsure of the industry’s own communications about best sustainability practices or believe it does not do a good job communicating them.

Key Findings: Home and Building Industry

Home and building solutions that address environmental protection and climate resilience represent distinct benefits for Americans in their personal lives, communities or both.

  • Renewable energy, such as solar power, is a home and building technology seen as dually improving daily lives (40%) and local communities (39%).
  • Americans say energy-efficient appliances have a more positive effect on their households (47%) in comparison to their community (31%).
  • When considering waste management systems that safely dispose of materials, including bio-waste and recyclables, more recognize the favorable impact on their neighborhoods (50%) versus their own lives (39%).
  • Fifty-seven percent believe there is a tendency to report bad news more than good news in green business coverage about home and building companies.
  • However, most (59%) are either unsure of the industry’s efforts to communicate its own responsible and ethical actions, or view its communications as lacking.

G&S Sense & Sustainability Study Snapshot

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Our Insights

“People are voicing a desire to end the numbing grind of thoughts, prayers and partisan bickering driving today’s conversations about our environment, communities and households. Instead of allowing misguided actors to exploit a gap in knowledge, communicators can re-energize public discourse to become more purposeful. Business communicators know how to link evidence with empathy to turn data about corporate social responsibility into meaningful stories of human connectedness, innovation and action.”

 

Ron Loch, Managing Director and Sustainability Consulting Lead, G&S Business Communications

“Based on our decade-long G&S research, the narrative arc for the corporate responsibility movement has shifted from doing good on a global scale to working ambitiously at the human scale. We are seeing the public’s growing sense of accountability and agency about their own impact on nature and society, which includes their beliefs about human-caused climate change and their choices as consumers, employees, investors and private citizens. As people look for tangible, incremental results, there is a clear opportunity for businesses and their leaders to step up and demonstrate they are behaving ethically, operating responsibly and offering workable answers.”

 

Mary C. Buhay, Senior Vice President, Marketing, G&S Business Communications and lead author of the Sense & Sustainability Study

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