Politicians and the public expect companies to do more in terms of sustainability

January 27, 2022


Jacques Bettelheim | Business Director Public Affairs

January 27, 2022

When it comes to sustainability, politicians are placing increasing demands on companies. Various existing EU directives already require large companies to disclose information about the way they work and deal with ecological challenges. But the Dutch political sector is demanding more and more from companies in this area. A short quotation from the coalition agreement of the 4th Rutte Cabinet: The industry of the future runs on clean energy and makes circular products. This is an approach of reciprocity between governments, industry and society. Not on the basis of noncommittal agreements but on the basis of firm, binding customized ones.

What is particularly striking in this passage are the words “not on the basis of noncommittal agreements”. This shows a break in the trend: whereas in the past politicians often assumed that industries would regulate themselves in the area of sustainability, the new government is now focusing on “firm, binding” agreements. Thus, beyond noncommittal ones

Disappointed consumer

These high expectations for companies do not only stem from politicians. In 2022, consumers also expect a lot from companies. And at the same time, those particular consumers are disappointed: companies are not living up to their expectations. The latter is not stated in the coalition agreement, but is apparent from the results of the recently presented Authenticity Gap survey by Omnicom PR Group. The survey was held among 1,000 Dutch informed consumers – individuals who are interested or involved in one of the ten sectors studied.

Ninety percent of the 80 organizations surveyed do not meet consumer expectations when it comes to sustainability. In addition, 65% of Dutch consumers believe that organizations should show what they do for society and the climate, and therefore should not only communicate about possible product benefits.

Top three actions

More importantly, consumers are not only concerned with companies speaking out on social issues but also with providing solutions and taking concrete actions. The top three most meaningful actions that can help organizations make a real difference for the climate according to consumers are:

  1. offset all CO₂ emissions of your organization;
  2. commit not only your own organization to CO₂ and environmental standards, but also hold customers and partners accountable;
  3. switch to a renewable energy supplier for all office, factory or storage locations.

Furthermore, a significant 86% of consumers expect executives to speak out about climate goals and actively contribute to them.

Share your solutions and dilemmas

In short, companies would be well advised to take a great leap forward. Come up with solutions that make your company more sustainable, commit customers and suppliers to your goals, and encourage discussions about sustainability in your industry. Communicate to your stakeholders – customers, employees, chain partners, government and politics – about what you are doing. But also tell them what your dilemmas are, and what you cannot (yet) change in the area of sustainability. This creates sympathy and contributes to consumer and political understanding of your situation. Companies that do this well reduce the gap between expectations and performance, and will therefore undoubtedly score better in the next Authenticity Gap survey.


Authenticity Gap Research

80 major brands in the Netherlands are failing to meet key consumer expectations. To remain relevant, brands need to show more of what they actually do for our society and the climate. This is evident according to Omnicom PR Group’s Authenticity Gap research presented today.