The majority of consumers (83%) think companies should be proactive and concerned about environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices, with 76% stating that they would discontinue their relationships with companies that treated the environment, employees or the community in which they operate poorly, according to PwC’s global survey Consumer Intelligence on ESG.
“Consumers and employees want businesses to be proactive in solving environmental and societal problems, not just to comply with regulations, and they’re prepared to reward or penalise brands accordingly. The results of the survey show that consumers look for information about ESG activities and investments from other sources if companies do not have specific reports”, said Monica Movileanu (photo), PwC Romania Partner.
Thus, over 80% of employees prefer to support or work for companies that care about environmental, social and governance issues, while 80% of consumers are willing to buy their products/services.
Although the perception is that companies care much more about the environment than they did ten years ago, more than half of consumers (57%) say that companies should be doing more to advance environmental issues (e.g. climate change and water stress), 48% want companies to show more progress on social issues (e.g. diversity and inclusion, data security and privacy) and 54% expect more from companies on governance issues (e.g. complying with laws and regulation and addressing widening pay gaps).
Companies need to keep up with new trends
The majority of business leaders (91%) quoted in the survey believe that their company has a responsibility to act on ESG issues. Accordingly, investors poured USD 51 billion into ESG-impact funds in 2020 to more than double such investments within a year.
“The balance is swinging towards more regulatory action on ESG disclosures, and businesses can take proactive steps now to be better positioned for success as data and reporting become more regulated and standardised”, said Cristina Angheluță, Senior Manager at PwC Romania.
Asked who their most important stakeholders are, consumers came out ahead of others such as employees, investors, regulators and the media.
Climate change, healthcare access, safety in the workplace and compliance are on everyone’s ESG investment wish list, including consumers, employees and companies. For companies, only the area of privacy and data security is a bigger investment priority.
It’s clear that the main challenge for executives is balancing investment needs for growth with investment needs for ESG goals (40%). A lack of reporting standards and regulatory complexity were cited by 37% of executives as a bigger obstacle to advancing ESG issues than a lack of attention by senior management, time or resources. Many are not sure about which reporting standard to follow, or how far they should go beyond standards to meet higher consumer and employee expectations.
About the survey
The survey polled 5,005 consumers, 2,510 employees and 1,257 business leaders in the US, Brazil, the UK, Germany and India from 29 March to 23 April 2021 about their expectations from business regarding several key ESG issues.