Consumers expect companies to take a stand on climate

Data security, data privacy and climate change are the top three issues that consumers in the UK expect companies to take a stand on, according to new research.

FleishmanHillard’s Authenticity Gap report, which studied 20 industries, 160 companies and 1,140 engaged UK consumers, reveals the issues people care about most, what they expect companies to do about them and where organisations are exceeding, meeting or falling short of these expectations.

Data security and data privacy remain the top two issues consumers expect companies to act on, highlighted by nearly two thirds (63 per cent) of people respectively, but it is people’s demand for corporate action on environmental concerns that has seen the biggest surge in demand.

A majority, 59per cent, expect companies to take a stand on climate and environmental issues, up from 39 per cent in 2018, catapulting it from 17th to 3rd in the rankings of issues companies are expected to take a stand on.

When comparing expectations and actual experiences, this year’s report found that 84% of the 160 companies studied fall short of consumer expectations in terms of action on environmental issues and climate change. This was a universal finding across 17 of the 20 industries studied – with the greatest expectation among companies and brands in the personal care sector.

Jim Donaldson, CEO FleishmanHillard Fishburn, said, “Our study shows consumers don’t necessarily expect companies to fix everything, but they will intensely scrutinise them to make a positive difference on the issues under their control and where they can make a tangible impact.”

In terms of companies’ responses to data security and privacy issues, nearly four in five (73 per cent) consumers say companies must show its policies go beyond mandated regulations such as GDPR. And in the fallout from record fines from data breaches and cybersecurity failures, 62 per cent of people believe companies are taking too long to disclose and provide solutions to data breaches.

The findings also reveal the issues consumers expect business leaders to act and have a voice on, with the majority of consumers expecting CEOs to first and foremost communicate on issues that impact customers (76 per cent) and employees (71 per cent). However, the majority of people (55 per cent) also believe they should act on issues with a large societal impact, even if they don’t significantly affect their company. Less importance was placed on having a stand on controversial issues that influenced government policy changes (48 per cent) or those that reflected a CEO's own personal views and beliefs (43 per cent).

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