Consumers look to private sector to lead on climate action

15 February 2022 3 min. read
More news on

Having lost considerable faith in governments, the majority of consumers are now looking to the corporate world to provide leadership on climate change, and they’re ready to vote with their feet.

According to a new survey from research and consultancy firm Fifth Dimension, frustrated consumers have given up on their governments when it comes to acting meaningfully on climate change, instead hoping the corporate sector will lead the way.

More than half of the respondents in Australia, the United States and United Kingdom now believe that the private sector will have a greater positive impact on climate change than governments.

Consumers look to private sector to lead on climate action

Altogether, barely a third of consumers across markets felt that governments rather than private enterprise should determine the response to climate change, with belief in government action and influence eroding with age. While 43 percent of Gen Z respondents still look to governments for action, just 31 percent of the baby boomers do so, that figure likely influenced by a mix of political jadedness and liberal economic mentalities.

It should also be noted that the older cohort are far more likely to reject climate science, at a rate double that of Gen Z according to research from the University of Canberra. Yet, while a dispiriting three out of ten consumers surveyed by Fifth Dimension still deny the need to act, the overwhelming majority believe that companies have a moral obligation to take measures towards sustainability – and particularly so in Australia, with 70 percent in agreement.

They’re also increasingly willing to put their purchasing power behind companies which are taking legitimate steps – especially the first movers, which are perceived as more authentic in their motivations. One third of Australian consumers now say that sustainability practices are a very important factor in their decision-making, while more than one half consider it very important that a brand is honest and ethical when choosing a provider.

Still, almost a half also state that they don’t clearly understand what it means for a brand to be sustainable (again, with significant generational disparities), with calls for greater transparency and more informative advertising and packaging on environmental credentials. Some two thirds of Australian consumers believe they would be better equipped to make informed choices if all companies were required to report their environmental impact.

Across generations, just under half of those surveyed say advertising and packaging should be used as a means for communicating on sustainability, although only a third trust advertising to be generally truthful. Here, the consultancy’s research suggests that early movers are more likely to gain a preference and differentiation in the market as companies which are currently addressing areas such as supply chains are believed to be more authentic in their actions.

“It is clear, companies that genuinely take positive steps to address climate change now will be rewarded; morally and commercially,” says Fifth Dimension co-founder and CEO Lyndall Spooner. “And while scepticism often plagues companies that promote their charitable and community driven activities, consumers are asking for companies to declare their views on climate change and to educate them on how their actions are making a difference.”