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Damning survey shows the public doesn’t believe energy brands’ purpose claims

The YouGov survey shows trust is scarce for energy brands

Energy brands have a battle on their hands in their efforts to persuade the public of their seriousness in tackling environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues, according to a brutal new report.

The YouGov survey of 3,000 people, conducted on behalf of agencies collective The Mission Group, found that almost no one trusts energy companies to be good to their word, with energy brands slumping to the bottom of 120 brands analyzed in terms of their ESG perception.

The Mission Brand Bonding Index shows the extent of the coldness displayed by the general public toward their energy suppliers, with a scant 9% of the British public trusting ‘big six’ provider E.On to ‘do the right thing.’ That figure dropped to 8% expressing faith in fellow three-letter acronyms EDF and SSE, but it was left to Centrica to outdo all three, mustering the trust of a mere 2% of the public.

With the impact of Cop26 still reverberating, positive environmental perception remains crucial for brands, and here again energy providers performed poorly. Both E.On and EDF scored 9%, slightly better than SSE (8%) and more than double the best that Centrica could manage (4%).

In terms of positive social perceptions, the brands conspired to perform even worse with EDF, E.On and Centrica registering approval from 6%, 5% and 2% of the public respectively.

The one bright spot for the sector comes in the form of first-placed utility provider Octopus Energy, which ranked 26th overall, after winning the trust of 21% of respondents to do good. A further 26% expressed a positive impression of its environmental stance courtesy of its 100% renewable energy tariffs.

James Clifton, Mission group chief executive, said: “Utilities have a long way to go in improving their brand reputations on ESG. Clearly what they are doing at the moment isn’t working. Consumers just don’t buy the campaigns they are currently conducting and a comprehensive overhaul of their approach is needed if they are going to achieve their goals.

“Cop26 has only served to ratchet up the pressure on the energy sector to do the right thing, yet our research shows that suppliers aren’t trusted to do the right thing at all. This could be down to legacy issues and broader skepticism over corporate greenwashing. Either way, these companies must try harder to prevent lasting damage to their reputations.”

The findings follow an abortive attempt by Centrica to burnish its sustainability credentials through the launch of its green Evolve brand, only for the name to be scrapped less than a year after launch.

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