John Harrington
May 17, 2022

Firms pursue ESG policies to look good more than do good: survey

A desire to look good, rather than do good, is the primary reason businesses pursue sustainable and socially responsible policies, new research suggests.

Firms pursue ESG policies to look good more than do good: survey

The survey of 811 business leaders, conducted by PR agency Clearly, found a “meteoric” rise in the number of firms adopting ESG policies since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fewer than one in five (17%) said they had any in place in March 2020, while nearly half (49%) of the businesses adopting ESG measures say they rolled them out in the past six months. An additional third (34%) did so between April 2020 and April 2021.

Meanwhile, 28% of the leaders surveyed in April 2022 also said they planned for their business to become a Certified B Corporation within the next 12 months.





However, more than half (52%) of the UK businesses polled that said they wanted to become a gold-standard green company or Certified B Corporation admitted the top reason for pursuing ESG policies was to improve brand perception and influence customer purchasing decisions.

This reason came ahead of showing their commitment to people and the planet (45%). In addition, 28% said they would only adopt ESG measures to raise their profile as an employer of choice, while 22% would do it solely to drive profits and sales.

The poll also found more than one-third (35%) of firms pay lip service only to the wider impact of their policies – admitting they do not financially gift anything at all to environmental or social impact initiatives.

And, of the 65% that do, half only give a tiny proportion of their profits – an average of 1% of net profit.

Paul MacKenzie-Cummins, founder and managing director at Clearly, said: “Our findings have confirmed the suspicions we have long held: the hype around ESG and gaining B Corporation accreditation has little to do with a genuine desire to be a better business that balances profit with the need for positive environmental and social impact.

“Rather, it is performative behaviour that has resulted in a tsunami of businesses viewing ESG as a catalyst for post-pandemic growth.”

The survey of senior business leaders included chief executives, managing directors, senior managers and founders.

Clearly is among the PR agencies with B-Corp status. Others to achieve the standard include Freuds, Forster, Don’t Cry Wolf and Milk & Honey. PRWeek reported last year that several more comms consultancies were looking to follow suit.

Non-profit organisation B Labs, which is behind the ethical business benchmarking scheme, was set up in 2006 in the US; a UK operation was created in 2015. The B-Corp certification process covers five key areas: governance, workers, community, environment and customers. It requires evidence of responsible practices, including worker compensation, diversity and corporate transparency.








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