Clients ‘put off’ by businesses boasting their ESG credentials, survey suggests

by | Sep 13, 2023

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Efforts by some businesses to promote their environmental and social impact on society are pushing some customers away and risk damaging their reputations, according to the results of a poll conducted by public relations and ESG communications agency, Clearly PR.

Of the 2,072 business leaders, entrepreneurs, and marketing professionals polled, 31% said they were “put off” a business that talks a lot about their ESG initiatives in the media and on social media.

More than a third (36%) said that such messages and communications had “no effect” on them whatsoever, while just under 17% said they questioned the validity of ESG claims made by these businesses. Only 16% said that they look more favourably on those who regularly share updates on their environmental and social responsibility initiatives.


Clearly PR managing director Paul MacKenzie-Cummins, said: “ESG has been catapulted to the top of the business agenda over the last three years. The transition of conscious consumerism from being a ‘moment’ to becoming a ‘movement’ has sparked a rise in post-pandemic purpose-led businesses. 

“While this is to be welcomed, the extent to which many businesses are talking about their ESG credentials has become frenzied. Our poll shows this is clearly alienating many customers and negatively impacting the perception that their target market has of these businesses.

“There is, it seems, too much banging on the green and purpose drum and there is evidence to suggest that customers view excessive ESG communications as hyperbole rather than authentic. As such, in many cases they have either become immune to the ESG messaging emanating from businesses or distrusting of their validity.”


Clearly PR, which was one of the first PR agencies to become a B Corp when it gained accreditation in 2021, believes that businesses doing ‘good’ for people and planet should be vocal about it, but in moderation and to the right audience.

MacKenzie-Cummins explains: “Sharing regular stories about ESG initiatives to an equally invested audience is OK, but flooding all communication channels with this messaging won’t wash with those customers with little or no interest in what a business does for the good of the environment and society. All they want to know is how the business’s products or services can address their needs and wants. 

“Businesses should focus their messaging primarily on what they do, while the ‘purpose’ element is the added value of doing business with them – not the primary reason for it. The conscious consumer will seek out this added value.”


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