What are we afraid of? And what does that mean for corporate America?

by Jun 15, 2022

Shelton Stat of the Week

78% of people in America rank safety and security as the most important element to making a home comfortable.
Energy Pulse®, 2020

Late last year we saw some interesting, but maybe not surprising, stats in our 16th annual Energy Pulse® survey. In short, people in America are prioritizing safety and security in our homes in a way we’ve never seen before in our surveys.

We ask a lot of questions to understand the drivers behind taking action on one’s home, so we can use the right levers and messages to spur action on energy efficiency and other environmental impact-reducing measures. Here’s what we heard in our December survey:

  • When asked to choose and rank top priorities for spending money on one’s home, “making my home safer” came in as the number two answer, just behind, “making my home more comfortable” and way ahead of “making my home healthier” and “making my home more beautiful.” In fact, 55% of people in America ranked safety and security in their top three priorities for spending on their homes. In 2017, only 36% ranked it in the top three.
  • And when asked “what makes a house a home,” safety and security are tied at first place with “physical comfort.”
  • Comfort and security are interrelated: the #1 thing our friends and neighbors say creates a feeling of comfort in their homes is, you guessed it, safety and security. 47% rated this as extremely important and 32% as very important.

As the CEO of an ESG marketing firm that regularly connects dots for clients to keep them skating where the puck’s going to be, I’ve been thinking about this craving for safety and security in the context of the substantial rise in mental health concerns, teen suicide attempts, and our ever-widening political division. We’re seeking safety and security because we feel afraid – and certainly there’s a lot to be afraid of – from COVID-19 and Monkeypox, to Putin, North Korea, mass shootings, the looming recession and climate change (to name my running list of fears).

Of course, some of us are buying security systems or buying guns in response to those fears. And some of us are working hard to ban guns in response to those fears.

What many of us are doing (not necessarily consciously) is turning hopeful eyes to Corporate America. There are many good studies tracking trust in companies that show an increase in trust/faith in companies over the last year – our Good Company survey looks at it from the angle of sustainability. My favorite is the Edelman Trust Barometer, and their 2022 study says, “At 61%, business is the most trusted institution, ahead of NGOs at 59%, government at 52% and media at only 50%. However, 77% of respondents trust ‘My Employer,’ making the relationship between employer and employee incredibly important.”

And trust is a powerful precursor to safety. A great HBR read from 2017 pointed out that, “Compared with people at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies report: 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement, 29% more satisfaction with their lives and 40% less burnout.” In other words, feelings of trust correlates to experiencing these elements of safety. And, right now, when we’re thirsting for safety and security, trust in business can be an oasis.

So what should you/your organization do with this insight? Three things:

  1. Resist the urge to spin. The Edelman Trust Barometer also points out that while CEOs are expected to be the face of change 63% of global survey respondents (up 7 points from last year) believe that business leaders are purposely trying to mislead people. So speak the truth.
  2. Talk openly about price increases/responses to inflation. Social media is full of pissed off/disbelieving commentary about products that are the same price as a few months ago but magically smaller/fewer to a box. Don’t do that without an explanation. And don’t just price hike without an explanation. Everybody knows inflation is happening to all of us…if you have to raise prices, meet your consumer halfway by bearing some of the cost yourself and then telling that story. In short, be transparent.
  3. Take care of your employees. This has been all over our reporting, posting and speaking since the pandemic started. This is the number one measuring stick Americans use to determine if a company is good or bad. So if you want to keep the faith of your consumer and customer base, take care of your employees.

Strong transparency and ethical leadership from business won’t solve all of our social ills. But it can sure be one balm to help us heal – and do so while building real business value.

News of the Week
The link between sustainable business practices and employee well-being

The link between sustainable business practices and employee well-being
Fast Company

Americans are expecting more and more from companies around sustainability, including the ones they work for. This Fast Company article details how companies can not only address employee anxiety over environmental issues but boost mental health by making sustainable strides.
Read more…

Transparency equals action: A formula for reaching sustainability goals faster

Transparency equals action: A formula for reaching sustainability goals faster
Long gone are the days of broad sweeping sustainability promises satisfying Americans. They want proof and regulatory entities do as well. This Forbes piece details how transparency can lead to businesses moving beyond reacting to policy changes or consumer pressure to proactively address concerns with real-time, backed-up progress.
Read more…

Shoptivism: Why Consumers (& Job Seekers) Opt In & Out of Today’s Brands

Sustainability is now mainstream and it’s affecting purchase behavior.

Every year we ask Americans if they’ve ever intentionally purchased or not purchased a product or service based on the social or environmental record of the manufacturer. We then ask everyone who says “yes” to name the brand. Those who say “yes” and can give an example of a brand unaided? We call them shoptivists.

But who are these “shoptivists?”

Our latest report answers this question with three distinct consumer profiles, including details on their mental models, their shopping patterns, the messages that resonate, and where to find them.

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About the Author

Suzanne Shelton

Where Suzanne sees opportunity, you can bet results will follow. Drawing on her extensive knowledge of both the advertising world and the energy and environment arena, Suzanne provides unparalleled strategic insights to our clients and to audiences around North America. Suzanne is a guest columnist in multiple publications and websites, such as GreenBiz, and she speaks at around 20 conferences a year, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and Green Build.

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