Environmental, Social and Governance

PUBLIC RELATIONSHIPS INDEX STUDY 2021

ESG & Public relationships: Workers rate their employers highest on social leadership, but lower on climate progress

The Argyle Public Relationships Index™, conducted in partnership with Leger Research, measures the quality of relationships between organizations and their publics. In our 2021 study, we focused on how workers rate their employers on a range of factors – including their environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance.

After a year of attention to inequity, injustice and inclusion, approximately three-quarters of North American workers believe their employers perform strongly on social issues, such as health and safety, or equity for women and people of colour. Ratings of organizations’ governance follow closely behind. However, employee views are much more mixed when it comes to environmental and climate performance.

Canadians rank their employers’ ESG performance

While 73 percent of respondents agree that their organization “performs strongly on social issues, such as health and safety or equity for women and people of colour” and 70 percent agree their organization “has strong, effective and ethical management and governance practices,” just over half (56 percent) agree their organization “performs strongly on environmental issues, such as reducing its negative impact on the climate.”

In other key findings, 71 percent of respondents know their organization’s social purpose and believe it lives up to this purpose, and 74 percent believe their organization shows leadership in its industry, community or the public domain.

Americans more satisfied with employer performance than Canadians

The study also reveals that Americans believe more strongly in their employers’ ESG performance than Canadians do, with 76 percent rating their organization highly on social performance, 75 percent on governance and 64 percent on environmental performance.

Workers believe employers have strong relationships with their customers and community

Using Argyle’s six research-tested dimensions of a healthy relationship, Canadians also give their employers strong marks on their efforts to build relationships with key publics:

0%
agree their organization “shows concern for its clients.”
0%
believe it “is committed to meeting public expectations.”
0%
agree their employer “earns public trust.”
0%
believe “the public is satisfied with my organization.”
0%
agree their organization “shows concern about ordinary people.”
0%
believe “the public can influence the decisions or direction of my organization.”

Here, too, Americans’ ratings of their employers are slightly stronger:

0%
agree their organization “shows concern for its clients.”
0%
believe it “is committed to meeting public expectations.”
0%
agree their employer “earns public trust.”
0%
believe “the public is satisfied with my organization.”
0%
agree their organization “shows concern about ordinary people.”
0%
believe “the public can influence the decisions or direction of my organization.”

The Argyle Public Relationships Index™ is based on a survey of 934 employed Canadians and 548 employed Americans, completed between April 30-May 2, 2021, using Leger’s online panel. Leger’s online panel has approximately 400,000 members and a retention rate of 90%. No margin of error can be associated with a non-probability sample (i.e. a web panel in this case). For comparative purposes, though, a probability sample of 934 respondents would have a margin of error of +/- 3.2%, 19 times out of 20. A probability sample of 548 respondents would have a margin of error of +/- 4.2%, 19 times out of 20.

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