‘Sustainability’ is best to communicate social and environmental responsibility

An image to depict sustainability: a hand holds a bouquet of leaves in which a globe of Earth resets. Around the globe are icons depicting: a petrol pump, a windfarm, the sun, an oil pump, a solar panel, an ear of corn, a fire, a triangle recycling symbol, and a plant being watered.

‘Sustainability’ is best to communicate social and environmental responsibility

‘Sustainability’ is the best term for American companies to communicate social and environmental responsibility

Reputation Leaders ran a U.S. national online survey in July 2023 to explore American perceptions and behaviors towards ESG & AI. The survey was conducted among 1,000 U.S. adults aged 18 and over. Full results are downloadable from https://www.reputationleaders.ltd/media/worldhealthday2023

Americans respond better to ‘sustainability’ than ‘ESG’ or ‘CSR’.

According to a July 2023 survey of 1,000 US adults by Reputation Leaders, Americans believe the best term to refer to “the approach companies take to improve business, society and environment” is either ‘sustainability’ or ‘ESG’ (23% each). While ‘ESG’ is currently the most prevalent in media, it is also the most polarizing. On the other hand, ‘sustainability’ increases the chance of positive media conversation, in turn driving reputation.


Addressing climate change is the most important sustainability issue today.

July 2023 was the hottest month ever recorded on Earth. When Americans were asked which ESG issue they believe is the most important today, 17% of American adults surveyed said addressing climate change (#1 issue). Running ethical well-managed companies is second priority to the public (12%), followed by protecting personal data (11%), according to a July 2023 survey of 1,000 US adults by Reputation Leaders.

Climate change adaptation will become the most important issue in 30 years. As natural disasters, drought and rising sea & temperature levels impact the world, a quarter of all Americans are concerned with climate change adaptation in 30 years’ time. This concern rises to 40% of Democrats. Less educated Americans worry most about future jobs. Among those who don’t have a high school diploma, the concern about future employment is higher; 42% believe the workforce of the future will be the most important issue in 30 years.

Overall, Americans prioritize sustainability issues that directly impact their personal health and safety.

Americans believe companies should prioritize employee health & wellbeing (69%), data protection (67%), and reducing waste & pollution (62%). Although addressing climate change is a major sustainability issue, they don’t expect American companies to solve this without the help of governments and NGOs. However, they do expect industry-specific initiatives; for example, automotive companies should try to reduce waste and pollution.