The research, which was commissioned by Citigate Dewe Rogerson and the Better Society Awards, and conducted by Opinium, surveyed a panel of 500 UK owners, chief executives, directors as well as other staff.
One in eight (12%) workers say profits should be impacted if necessary to raise higher ethical standards but a quarter (24%) say they would be unwilling to accept sacrificing profitability for the sake of ESG.
Around two in five (38%) workers believe their company’s consideration of environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues has risen over the last five years. Only 2% believe these concerns have reduced.
More than half (52%) of workers believe companies should consider ESG issues because it is morally the correct thing to do.
But the study also reveals a degree of pragmatism: 28% say ESG issues need to be considered to legally protect their company, while over a quarter (26%) say that ESG considerations are ultimately necessary to be more successful. This latter belief is not skewed in any particular generation – while 25% of millennials (18-34 year olds) believe this, 26% of 35 to 55-plus believe this, too.
Mark Evans, Director, Better Society Awards, says: “Many companies now can see that their organisation’s ESG position is driving higher long-term profitability. This represents a sea change in perception; ESG was only notionally considered in the previous decades, but now is not only fully accepted, but seen as no impediment to profit.”
Reputation among clients and potential clients is seen as important to their organisation by four in five (81%); three quarters (75%) believe that their company cares how the public perceives them and two thirds (67%) think that the reputation of their organisation to employees and potential employees is significant.
Despite the growing concerns, companies are remarkably reticent when it comes to highlighting their efforts with regards to ESG: the majority of workers (53%) say their companies do not publicise their ESG activities at all. The most popular platform for doing so is internal communications but only one in five (21%) uses this. Other methods include the annual company report (17%); press releases (11%); sponsorship (10%); and advertising (9%).
Interestingly, 27% of respondents say they have no idea whether their company is planning to improve its approach to ESG issues.
Although entering awards can be used to highlight ESG activities, only 10% of companies do this, while 9% collaborate with an external partner such as a charity or community group and 9% hold consultations or events.
Jonathan Flint, Managing Director, Citigate Dewe Rogerson, says: “Public consciousness of ESG issues continues to rise, putting ever more pressure on companies to demonstrate good behaviour. Despite this, it is surprising that our research shows how little companies are doing to highlight their ESG activities. The potential to enhance their reputations further with comprehensive communications is substantial.”