2012 Sense & Sustainability Study

Results of the 2012 Gibbs & Soell Sense & Sustainability® Study found that public doubt about a broader corporate commitment to “going green” continues to run high. Although only 21 percent of Americans believe the majority of businesses are making efforts toward sustainable development, the amount marks an increase in confidence as compared to the previous two years of research. Despite their skepticism, the majority (71 percent) of consumers wants to know more about what companies are doing to become sustainable and green, and 75% feel the media are more likely to report on green business when the news is bad rather than good.

This is the third annual G&S survey of perspectives on corporate sustainability among U.S. consumers and corporate executives, conducted by Harris Interactive® on behalf of the firm. The third edition of the study marks the first time that analysis of related media coverage has been included to complement the survey research. Findings from media analysis performed by Cision Global Analysts reveal that original news reports account for only one-third of the analyzed content from major media sources.

Read the summary report and news release announcing the results of 2012 Gibbs & Soell Sense & Sustainability Study.

The survey focused on six primary areas:

  • Perceptions of businesses’ commitment to sustainability;
  • Responsibility for sustainability initiatives;
  • Barriers to more businesses “going green”;
  • Perceptions of media coverage and content about companies “going green”;
  • Interest in learning about companies “going green”; and,
  • Impact and reach of media coverage for related news stories.

Key Findings:

  • The general public and business leaders remain skeptical of corporate America’s commitment to sustainability. Only 21 percent of U.S. adults and 25 percent of executives believe that a majority of businesses (“most,” “almost all,” or “all”) are committed to “going green” – defined as “improving the health of the environment by implementing more sustainable business practices and/or offering environmentally-friendly products or services.” However, this particular group of “confident consumers” has been on the rise over the past three years: 21 percent in 2012, 17 percent in 2011 and 16 percent in 2010.
  • While one-third of executives report having no green steward, up from years past, there is a trend toward dedicated teams for those who do. This year’s results show that 34 percent of executives indicate there is no one at their company who is responsible for sustainability or “going green” initiatives, up from 25 percent in 2011. More than one out of five (21 percent) corporate leaders report there is a team of individuals whose jobs are specifically and solely dedicated to sustainability, up from 17 percent in 2011 and 13 percent in 2010.
  • Most consumers and business executives also believe corporate sustainability activities are more likely to be covered by the media when the news is bad than good.The number is comparatively higher among consumers who are confident in corporate America’s commitment to “going green.” Three-quarters (75 percent) of U.S. adults and 69 percent of executives feel the media are more likely to report on “bad news” than “good news” when covering how companies are addressing efforts to “go green.” Specifically among the 21 percent of consumers who believe “most,” “almost all,” or “all” companies are committed to “going green,” 83 percent feel there is a bias for bad news in the media.

“Our study provides an unprecedented look at the sustainability dialogue between businesses and the general public by combining three years of attitudinal research among consumers and executives with media coverage analysis,” said Ron Loch, senior vice president and managing director, sustainability consulting, Gibbs & Soell. “The results reveal growing efforts by business communicators in relating their corporate responsibility stories, but also underscore a deficit in general understanding and trust.  It’s clear much more needs to be achieved in terms of relevant engagement with consumers and the media around corporate sustainability.” 

Read more about our communications expertise in developing strategies and implementing programs to engage businesses and consumer audiences about sustainable practices, products or services.

For more information about the 2012 Gibbs & Soell Sense & Sustainability Study, contact Ron Loch at (312) 648-6700 or rloch@gibbs-soell.com, or Mary C. Buhay at (212) 697-2600 or mbuhay@gibbs-soell.com

News Highlights from 2011 Sense & Sustainability Study

View Sense & Sustainability® webinar with editors from Newsweek, Sustainability: The Journal of Record (Free registration: Archived webcast)

Sense & Sustainability Survey 2011, Ron Loch, Sustainability: The Journal of Record, August 2011 Read Article

This Common-Sense Change Makes Good Business StrategyMotley Fool, May 4, 2011 Read News Article

Business Leaders Believe One Company is Green: TheirsReuters, April 7, 2011 Read News Article

Fortune 1000 Execs Doubt Most  Businesses’ Commitment to SustainabilityGreenbiz, April 6, 2011 Read News Article

Executives Say They’re Improving Environment–But Say Most Other Companies Aren’t, Environmental Leader, April 5, 2011 Read News Article

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