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– Written by Ellen McConnell – June 29, 2023

Navigating ESG communication challenges amid economic turbulence

Why brands must rise above the noise—In a world plagued by economic uncertainty and political divisiveness, Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) issues have found themselves caught in the crossfire.

Within this blog post, we present a concise summary of Cision’s ESG communication trend report.

2022 caused a temporary dip in consumer expectations regarding ESG policies. With inflation and soaring interest rates restricting purchasing power, consumers shifted their focus away from environmental and social concerns.  The immediate impact of events like the Russian invasion of Ukraine and resulting energy crisis in the UK, France, and Germany refocused attention on energy affordability and security rather than environmental impact.

However, while traditional media coverage of ESG suffered a setback, the true story lies with online search data. It tells us that public interest in ESG concepts remained unwavering, even during these turbulent times. The challenge, however, lies in the disparity between the well-rounded context provided by traditional media coverage and the often context-deficient chatter of social media platforms. This discrepancy exposes ESG to misinterpretation and hijacking by political pundits, thereby muddying the waters and detracting from the genuine efforts made by brands.

An in-depth analysis of media coverage reveals a divide between traditional and social media sources. Governance issues received the smallest share of ESG coverage in both traditional and social media sources. Environmental concerns – such as net-zero commitments and climate change – dominated traditional media narratives, generating extensive coverage. On social media, discussions centred around diversity, equity, and inclusion gained traction, while debates on corporate resilience and governance responsibilities were more prevalent.

To navigate these treacherous waters, brands must move beyond the realm of generic expressions of support and dig deeper into the concrete details of their ESG initiatives. The key lies in publicising accountable goals that resonate with stakeholders and presenting tangible evidence of progress through comprehensive annual data reports. By doing so, brands can enhance transparency, foster trust, and set themselves apart from those who engage in the deceptive practice of greenwashing. 

While economic turbulence may have temporarily dimmed the spotlight on ESG causes, their significance has not wavered. Brands must rise above the noise, navigating the challenges of communicating their ESG commitments in a media landscape rife with polarisation. By adopting communication strategies that provide context, demonstrate progress, and address stakeholders’ concerns, brands can protect their reputations and actively contribute to a sustainable future.