Brands and businesses are no longer under consumer judgment strictly for product quality and price—we expect our favorites to be pillars of their communities, standing up to injustice and doing all they can to help save the environment. New research from G&S Business Communications (G&S) reveals that public sentiment has indeed intensified about the ways businesses can take purposeful action in helping people, communities and the environment to thrive.

“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,” said Ron Loch, G&S managing director and sustainability consulting leader, in a news release. “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.”

Brand purpose, human rights growing more influential in purchasing decisions

Key brand expectations in 2019

The firm’s newly released 10th annual Sense & Sustainability study found there are sharp increases in consumers’ likelihood to purchase from companies whose suppliers comply with human rights or compensation laws (76 percent, up from 68 percent in 2018) and businesses offering fair wages to retain top employees (74 percent, up from 68 percent). 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 percent). The government is the second-most frequently cited, but at a significantly lower rate than last year (49 percent, down from 55 percent in 2018).

Brand purpose, human rights growing more influential in purchasing decisions

In addition, most Americans view the creation of local jobs (55 percent) and conservation of natural resources (52 percent) as helpful in forming a positive business reputation for social and environmental responsibility—yet six in 10 believe bad news tends to dim good news in green business coverage. Strikingly, 59 percent of survey takers 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.

Brand purpose, human rights growing more influential in purchasing decisions

“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,” said Mary C. Buhay, G&S senior vice president, marketing, and lead author of the Sense & Sustainability study. “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.”

Brand purpose, human rights growing more influential in purchasing decisions

For the 10th edition of the 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.

Healthcare and Health Technologies

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

Home and Building Solutions

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

Brand purpose, human rights growing more influential in purchasing decisions

Download the full report here.

The opinion poll was conducted online by YouGov Plc for G&S in August 2019 among 1,330 U.S. adults.

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Richard Carufel

Richard Carufel

Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders.

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