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Pressure to be ‘perfect’ means brands staying quiet on social and environmental progress 

New research by Alfred and Sensu Insight has revealed a significant number of brands and businesses are still choosing to under-report on their social and environmental progress, citing pressure to maintain a positive public image and fear of backlash and scrutiny as some of the main reasons for doing so.    

More than two-thirds (70%) of the PR and marketing professionals questioned said the brands they represent are ‘staying quiet’ on environmental, social and governance issues. Almost two-thirds (62%) felt that brands are expected to be perfect and never make mistakes.

In its latest report, Staying Quiet: are brands slowing progress in pursuit of perfection? Alfred uncovers the challenges facing comms professionals as they help brands to navigate the rising tides of regulation, media scrutiny, consumer agitation and shareholder pressure.    

Over the last year, one in four (28%) PR and marketing professionals have been asked to do something they felt amounted to greenhushing (the act of a brands or business hiding or under-reporting their sustainability credentials and targets, in order to evade scrutiny by consumers, investors or other stakeholders). Of these, more than one third (37%) said greenhushing happened frequently or very frequently. 

Across the industry there was significant agreement on the need for greater transparency around the challenges brands and businesses are facing, with 86% in favour of more openness. But fear of negative consequences (51%), fear of getting things wrong (50%), fear of negative press coverage (41%) and fear of public backlash (39%) were believed to be holding brands and businesses back. 

Almost half (49%) of the comms professionals questioned in the research felt they needed additional resources or training in order to feel confident pushing back on colleagues and clients when it comes to matters of transparency and greenhushing.   

Dan Neale, Founder and MD of Alfred said, “We were struck by the very real pressure that brands and businesses feel to be perfect, and the paralysis this creates when it comes to communicating their social and environmental progress in an open and transparent way. 

“Significant numbers of brands and businesses are still choosing to stay quiet or under report, and in many ways, it’s completely understandable – regulatory scrutiny is rightly increasing, and consumers, stakeholders and the media are holding brands to account like never before.  

“But there’s a huge lost opportunity in staying quiet. Being more open and honest about a brand’s setbacks and challenges can build trust with stakeholders. And just as importantly, it inspires and guides other brands and businesses towards more responsible business behaviour. 

“By embracing a mindset of progress over perfection, brands can become true catalysts for change, earning the trust of their peers and stakeholders, driving commercial success and leaving a lasting legacy.” 

To download the report visit https://alfredlondon.com/movements/progress-over-perfection/ 

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