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Just 24% of online UK adults believe brands should lead on climate

By John Glenday | Reporter

Forrester

|

greenwashing article

April 21, 2022 | 4 min read

Public pressure on brands to ‘walk the talk’ on climate change may be insufficient to spur meaningful action, according to a hard-hitting new report. On the eve of Earth Day, Forrester disclosed the troubling fact that just 24% of online adults in the UK believe brands ought to take a stand on climate change.

Forrester’s March 2021 Global Trust Imperative Survey was fielded globally to 1,851 online adult respondents and found that greenwashing is just the visible surface of a ‘sustainability communications iceberg.’

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This data is corralled within Forrester’s dedicated sustainability resource hub

Among the issues raised was the risk of miscommunication and its associated cost, be that legal action, a dented reputation or a loss of brand equity. This risk is quantified by Forrester, which estimates that 24% of US online adults would permanently cease business with any company they viewed as acting or speaking in a way that ran contrary to their stated values.

The study warns marketers not to act like a rabbit caught in the headlights for fear of being labeled as greenwashers, as they will simply be overtaken by less reticent competitors willing to flaunt their environmental, social and governance (ESG) credentials.

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It called out some examples too, including McDonald’s updated paper straws being difficult to recycle, H&M not providing proof around its Conscious Collection and irrelevant claims from the likes of BP.

The data is corralled within Forrester’s dedicated sustainability resource hub. It draws research insights together, including cautionary tales such as that of Ikea, which came unstuck on the independent certification of wood products after activists and the media uncovered supply chain deficiencies.

Warning that transparency opens the door to scrutiny at every level, Forrester notes that the Americas and the Asia Pacific region are following Europe’s lead in demanding corporate disclosure on environmental and social issues.

Guiding marketers, Forrester recommends that marketers demonstrate better understanding of how their products impact the climate, display evidence of social impact and review how the product is perceived by consumers through an ESG lens.

Further recommendations include a firm grasp of the ESG challenges of the wider industry, tracking regulations and developing awareness of older rules, claims and litigation. Only by getting a handle on all of these issues can companies hope to make better decisions when communicating their success.

Last year’s Earth Day saw brands such as P&G and Apple demonstrate to the world how they were taking action on climate change.

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