Cynicism from within tarnishes UK plc ESG efforts


Cynicism about UK businesses and their Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) initiatives runs deep amongst employees. Research finds that there is a deep disconnect between what companies do and how they communicate progress, leaving many employees unconvinced.

  • One in three believe that their organisation is ‘all talk and no action’ when it comes to environmental (32%) and social initiatives (37%)
  • Two in five (43%) describe their employer’s environmental efforts as nothing more than a tick-box exercise with 37% saying the same about social diversity and inclusion programmes
  • One in four (22%) think their employer always considers sustainability but only acts if it is convenient or does not negatively impact profits
  • More than one in four (28%) feel frustrated when it comes to their employer’s environmental pledges
  • Almost one-third (31%) are disillusioned with their company’s commitment towards social diversity and inclusion efforts

This is according to ‘ESG – Words Are Nothing Without Action’, a research-based report which explores where this employee cynicism comes from, why it’s a danger, and how to address it. The report comes from VIVID, the global consulting practice arm of TEAM LEWIS.

The research finds that employee cynicism is being fuelled by a lack of effective communication. This is creating a communications gap – employees recognise their company has set goals but are in the dark on efforts and progress toward these targets.

Whilst the majority of employees are satisfied with their organisation’s overall commitments to environmental (69%) and social diversity and inclusion (72%) goals, over half (54%) claim they see little or no evidence of the progress being made. Almost one in five (17%) receive no updates at all.

Helen Ellis, head of VIVID at TEAM LEWIS

“When it comes to environmental and social initiatives, words are nothing without action. Employees might know about their organisation’s lofty ambitions but unless they see and hear about progress, they simply won’t believe them.

At a time when employees are increasingly recognised for their role as their company’s biggest advocate or detractor, businesses that can’t communicate to their people on these important issues are putting themselves and their reputation at risk.

The research should serve as a warning – if employees don’t appreciate what their own company is doing, how can potential investors, customers, the press, and the wider public? It’s a missed opportunity as ESG and reputation go hand in hand. Organisations must ensure their people are travelling on the environmental and social journey with them.”