G&S News Release – 2018 G&S Sense & Sustainability Study

Reliance on News Media Surges among Americans Seeking Facts about Corporate Social and Environmental Responsibility

Nearly two-thirds are unsure about the promises of elected officials beyond thoughts and prayers during public crises

Key Messages:

  • The 2018 G&S Business Communications Sense & Sustainability® Study is the firm’s ninth annual U.S. public opinion poll about business and government commitment to protecting society and the environment.
  • After declining for several years, there is a sharp increase in the number of Americans (49 percent) who turn to news media for information about corporate social and environmental responsibility.
  • Nearly two-thirds of Americans (64 percent) are uncertain that elected officials will promise to do more than offer thoughts and prayers when crises arise.

NEW YORK, September 19, 2018 – In rising numbers, Americans are seeking information about corporate social and environmental responsibility, particularly from news coverage, according to the ninth 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 2018 among 2,659 U.S. adults.


Sharp reversals in key trends indicate a stronger public appetite for knowledge about business responsibility and sustainability, most notably:

  • Half of Americans (49 percent) rely on news media, a spike from last year (43 percent in 2017, which marked the five-year low)
  • Significantly fewer Americans (25 percent) are staying uninformed (down from 32 percent in 2017)
  • There is a five-year peak among those who read sustainability reports (18 percent in 2018, up from earlier highs of 16 percent in both 2017 and 2014)

The public may be taking cues from high-profile crises, examples of which include the 2014 contamination of drinking water in Flint, Michigan, the 2016 controversy over EpiPen pricing and the 2018 racism incident that led to anti-bias training for Starbucks employees. Specific perceptions indicate signs of both progress and setbacks:

  • When comparing their current views to those from five years ago, 3 in 5 Americans (60 percent) are equally or more confident that employers promoting workplace diversity and inclusion are likely to attract the best talent.
  • Only about 1 in 5 people (19 percent) feel certain they can safely drink the water in Flint, Michigan.
  • More than three-quarters (77 percent) do not feel sure they can obtain pharmaceutical products at fair prices.

“Amid spasms of upheaval that test public trust in institutions to protect people and the environment, Americans are demanding harder evidence in the form of facts and figures to inform their decisions and actions,” said Ron Loch, G&S managing director and sustainability consulting leader. “As the U.S. midterm elections approach, it will be critical to weigh public skepticism about government accountability in emergencies. Scrutiny of corporate culture also has intensified among Americans, as seen in their position favoring business adoption of diversity and inclusive practices. Business communicators who are stewards of corporate reputations and brand value must heed the urgent call from stakeholders for more intelligent, respectful discourse with those who vote with their wallets, ballots, and efforts at work.”

When asked to compare their perceptions from five years ago, Americans reveal weakening confidence in the accountability of government.

  • Nearly two-thirds of Americans (64 percent) are less confident or outright uncertain about elected officials promising action beyond thoughts and prayers after a public emergency.
  • There is a similar mix of eroding confidence and general uncertainty among nearly two-thirds of Americans (65 percent) regarding government protection of the environment and its responsible use of natural resources.
  • Most Americans (56 percent) feel a blend of growing skepticism or lack of surety that government will hold accountable businesses that do not protect the privacy of consumer data.

To obtain a report with details of the 2018 G&S Sense & Sustainability® Study, please visit the company’s website.

G&S is a global business communications firm with expertise in corporate social responsibility (CSR), sustainability, and environmental, social and governance (ESG) impact for clients in key markets: Advanced manufacturing and energy, agribusiness and food, clean technology, emerging technology ventures, financial and professional services, healthcare, home and building solutions, and nutrition and wellness.

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 and ESG reports, and engage key stakeholders in constructive dialogue.

In 2018, G&S was honored as the B2B/Corporate Agency of the Year by the Holmes Report and named to the CSR Agency A-List for the fourth consecutive year by PR News.

About G&S Business Communications

G&S Business Communications is an independent business communications firm with headquarters in New York and offices in Chicago, Raleigh, N.C., and Basel, Switzerland. The firm’s global network extends across more than 50 countries through its PROI Worldwide partnership. G&S integrates business and communications strategies, using a full range of communications services, to build sustainable relationships for clients along the entire value chain. We inspire action that drives results. For more information, please visit www.gscommunications.com

About the G&S Sense & Sustainability® Study

The 2018 G&S Sense & Sustainability Study is the firm’s ninth annual survey of U.S. adults about business efforts to improve society and the environment through sustainable practices, products, or services. The survey was fielded online on behalf of G&S by YouGov Plc between August 21 and 23, 2018 among 2,659 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. All figures are weighted and are representative of all U.S. adults ages 18 and older. Data cited from the 2017 Sense & Sustainability Study was also fielded online by YouGov Plc between August 2 and 3, 2017 among 1,158 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. Data cited from Sense & Sustainability studies in 2014-2016 were collected on behalf of G&S by Harris Poll. The 2016 study was conducted online within the United States between August 4 and 8, 2016 among 2,007 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. The 2015 study was conducted online within the United States between April 14 and 16, 2015 among 2,055 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. The 2014 study was conducted online between January 9 and 13, 2014 among 2,039 U.S. adults ages 18 and older.

No estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact G&S.


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