Poles Skeptical of Sustainable Development Initiatives


A study conducted by the research agency IRCenter shows that Poles are skeptical of sustainable development initiatives, with an average of one in three not understanding what they are about. This often results from companies and brands being unable to effectively communicate them. “Many companies don’t talk about their CSR and ESG activities at all, or they do so in a way that is incomprehensible and unappealing to the consumer,” says Janusz Sielicki, a partner at IRCenter. In cooperation with the National Chamber of Commerce, the Responsible Business Forum, and Newseria, IRCenter has just announced a competition to recognize the best campaigns from companies, local governments, NGOs, and other institutions inspired by real actions for sustainable development.

More and more Polish companies, especially medium-sized and large ones, are implementing sustainable development initiatives. This trend is a result of a combination of many factors: pressure from customers, employees and investors, regulatory requirements, and the desire to enhance the positive image of the brand.

“Over half, 54%, of Poles believe that companies only focus on their profit, and sustainable development or ecological actions are just a big sham,” says Jerzy Tyczyński from IRCenter.

A study conducted by IRCenter on a representative group of 1,000 Poles revealed that over half do not trust the good intentions of companies and believe that their actions for ecology, minorities, or other social initiatives are a sham. 37% of consumers often do not understand what a particular brand has to do with a social issue and why it is dealing with it. Despite this, the study shows that nearly 80% of Poles expect social engagement from companies. The vast majority do not want companies and brands focused solely on making money.

“In Poland there is a demand for sustainable development initiatives that are required by regulations on one hand, and on the other hand, Poles want to know about them. Only 21% believe that companies should focus solely on their business. So there is a big potential interest in this topic,” says Janusz Sielicki, a partner at IRCenter.

He points out that acting for sustainable development carries the risk of being seen as untrustworthy and undertaken just to increase profits. However, this is often due to companies and brands being unable to communicate them properly, according to the IRCenter study in Poland, on average every third consumer does not understand the CSR and ESG campaigns conducted by business.

“The problem is that many companies don’t talk about them at all or do so in a bad way that is incomprehensible and unappealing to the consumer. They often focus solely on showing what they have done, rather than the result. They often forget that these actions serve not only to meet the conditions imposed by legislation, but primarily to really impact the environment, our society, to improve our lives,” says Janusz Sielicki. “There are many examples of how these messages can be improved. It’s about speaking in a more understandable and engaging way, showing how these actions benefit us and the whole society.”

CSR and ESG campaigns have become a permanent part of many brands’ activities, due to the steadily increasing number of companies incorporating sustainable development into their strategies. According to a recent report by Autodesk (“State of Design & Make”), this is no longer just an addition or a well-sounding slogan, but a “must-have” in almost every industry. Over half (54%) of the 2,500 surveyed organizations indicated that initiatives in the field of sustainable development are a key component of their development strategy. Many also pointed out that such actions positively affect the operation of companies in both the short and long term, and in the future, they will account for a large part of their revenues.

“Companies spend time and money on CSR and ESG initiatives, so they should communicate these actions well. Especially since they also improve their image, affecting how companies are perceived by consumers and the business environment, but also by employees. CSR activities are often also directed internally, especially in large companies and corporations. They employ several, a dozen, or tens of thousands of employees and such internal programs should also be well communicated. But our research shows that companies often conduct such activities, and most employees don’t even know about them,” says the partner at IRCenter.

He points out that CSR and ESG actions are essential today, not only to fulfill legislative requirements but also to strengthen the brand. However, only well-structured ones guarantee credibility and understanding by consumers. Therefore, the most important thing is that these messages should be targeted correctly because only in this way can they bring measurable results – and it’s not just about the company’s profit or building its positive image, but about the social responsibility of business, which has definitely more possibilities to have a real impact on the world.

“Everything starts with words. That’s why it’s important to speak well – in an interesting and engaging way – about what organizations and companies are doing for the future, for Poles,” emphasizes Jerzy Tyczyński.

In order to promote and recognize the best marketing and communication campaigns inspired by the real CSR and ESG actions, the IRCenter Research Agency, the Responsible Business Forum, the National Chamber of Commerce and the Newseria informational agency have just announced the “CSR & ESG Activation Excellence Awards Poland 2023”. It’s addressed to both companies and non-business organizations that undertake and implement sustainable development initiatives in their activities and communication, aimed at both internal stakeholders and customers, suppliers, and external recipients. The award in the competition is the Crystal Laudatory title.

“Beyond business, sustainable development, CSR and ESG actions are also undertaken by local governments and non-governmental organizations. Often it is a cooperation between entities from the public and private sectors. Our competition is therefore not only addressed to companies but also to NGOs, local governments, and other institutions. We want to show these activities to society, appreciate the best ones,” says Janusz Sielicki.

The competition for the best communication of CSR and ESG initiatives aims to identify and recognize the best communications, and on the other hand, to show how to properly promote them, how to inform about such actions. Competition entries can be sent by registering on www.krysztalowylaudator.pl and then filling out the application form and attaching information about the project. They will then be rated in a poll of Poles and a substantive assessment by a team of experts. Participating in the competition is therefore an opportunity for companies and non-business organizations to receive the Crystal Laudatory award and check how their actions are received by consumers.