Businesses are the new environmental warriors as government fails to act on climate change

- February 3, 2022 4 MIN READ

New research reveals consumers have given up on the government acting on climate change and sustainability issues and are now turning to businesses to save the planet.

A global research study conducted by Fifth Dimension, suggests consumers are pinning their hopes on corporates and small businesses to step up the action on sustainable practices.

“We know consumers are concerned about climate change. The argument has moved on from whether or not climate change is real to what is the world going to do about it,” Fifth Dimension founder and CEO, Lyndall Spooner said.

“The overwhelming majority of consumers in Australia, UK and US believe companies have a moral obligation to lead the way on sustainability as corporations are viewed as more likely to have a positive impact on climate change than their own governments.”

Sustainability a global force

Sustainable practices have become another tick box for businesses globally. Yet Spooner suggests many consumers lack a good understanding of what it means if a business says they are sustainable. Consumers want businesses and corporations to be transparent in how they are acting to save the planet. And Spooner suggests they’re not afraid to vote with their wallets to push the agenda.

“At the end of 2021 consumers have galvanised their sustainability mindset and are using the power of their buying behaviours and decisions to force corporations to drive the large scale change they cannot achieve as individuals. However, they require transparency and facts of actions taken to give them confidence of where to place their loyalty,” Spooner says.

Fifth Dimensions research found almost half of all consumers say they do not have a good understanding of what it means for a brand to be sustainable. Customers would like companies to be required to report on their environmental impact to help them make better decisions on which companies to support.

Aussies say the government is not doing enough

According to the research, 71 per cent of consumers across Australia, UK and the US agree the world needs to act on climate change. However, more than half of respondents (54 per cent), believe it will be companies that will have a greater positive impact on climate change than governments.

As people around the world lose faith in government to act on climate change, Spooner suggests the issue will become a litmus test to see whether governments will put their own interests above that of their citizens and the planet. Increasingly people are losing faith that the government will act in their best interests and are shifting their focus to personal and corporate responsibility.

“Only one in three people, 37 per cent, believe it is up to governments and not companies to determine how we should respond to climate change. Belief that the government should take a leadership role on climate change steadily declines with age as only 31 per cent of baby boomers put their faith in the government compared to 43 per cent of Gen Z.

“Will people around the world continue to lose faith in governments to act on the greatest moral challenges of our time? Will we see greater reliance placed on the private sector to step up and take over the role of governments?” Spooner asks.

Sustainable businesses reaping rewards

Spooner suggests companies that genuinely take positive steps to address climate change now will be rewarded; morally and commercially.

“While scepticism often plagues companies that promote their charitable and community driven activities, consumers are asking companies to declare their views on climate change and to educate them on how their actions are making a difference,” Spooner added.”

Australians are the strongest believers that companies have a moral obligation to become sustainable at 70 per cent compared to US citizens at 60 per cent,

“While there is always going to be scepticism around the motivations of companies to prioritise their own self-interests over the greater good, one in two people, 48 per cent, believe that companies that are currently moving to act on climate change and implement things like ethical supply chains are doing it for authentic and benevolent reasons.  Based on our research, we believe the early movers are more likely to gain a preference and differentiation in the market for being authentic in communicating around sustainability.”

Consumer sustainability mindset now influencing path to purchase

Spooner states that Fifth Dimension’s global sustainability research demonstrates that sustainability is becoming increasingly important for consumers and is now part of many people’s path to purchase.

“We are clearly moving to a world where sustainability will be a key decision factor for consumer brand choice and a point of competitive positioning,” Spooner added.

“In fact, one in every two Australian consumers, 54 per cent, said a brand being honest and ethical is very important when choosing a provider, while one in three, 32 per cent, said sustainability practices were very important. And it does not matter the industry you operate in, we see the same desire to buy from sustainable brands across banking, (36 per cent), supermarkets, (32 per cent) and telecommunications at 28 per cent.

“What will be the value of a brand being able to state in their advertising and print they are carbon neutral on their packaging and what will be the cost for brands that cannot? With increasing commoditisation this is the next point of difference for brands; one that can truly connect consumers and brands through shared values.”

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