Almost half of UK consumers believe big brands only offer lip service with pledges to help battle climate change, a study shows.

Market researchers GlobalWebIndex found that 65% of consumers knew nothing about recent sustainability pledges by big brands such as Microsoft and Starbucks, and that 49% think brands just “say what society wants to hear” on climate change.

Even when consumers do know about brands’ commitments to act, most don’t believe the pledges are achievable – only 43% said they thought they were; and a further 29% were unsure about the feasibility of such promises.

But the researchers, who quizzed 2,264 UK internet users aged 16–64, confirmed that the environment is a big consideration for consumers when selecting a brand: nearly 70% of UK consumers say a company’s poor environmental track record would, or might, lead them to stop buying from that brand.

A separate CSR study by GlobalWebIndex of 2,531 consumers in the UK and US found that 84% of people say a poor environmental track record would or might cause them to stop buying from a brand.

More importantly, nearly half are willing to pay a premium for socially conscious or environmentally friendly brands.

The UK survey reveals just how deeply British consumers now care about climate change and the environment, with 80% saying they are “concerned” about the future of the environment. The number one worry is over the use of plastic, with almost two-thirds (64%) citing it as their primary concern. This was followed by extreme weather concerns (57%), and deforestation (50%).

Over half of Brits (57%) say they have reduced their use of plastic over the last 12 months, and 71% say they make efforts to recycle waste and reuse materials (51%).

Broadcaster and environmental campaigner Sir David Attenborough proves, unsurprisingly, to be a significant influencer, with 44% believing he is key to driving action and conversations on climate change. Governments were cited by 40% of respondents.

Commenting on the findings, Katie Gilsenan, Consumer Insights Manager at GlobalWebIndex said: “What this research shows is that consumers will engage with brands that have a purpose they can get behind, especially relating to environmental and social change.”

But brands have to be careful in what they say, as the recent decision of the UK’s advertising watchdog to ban a misleading advert by Ryanair demonstrates.

“What is required of brands is to project genuine, strong messages of responsibility in the face of this aversion,” she said. “Brands that get that right will be able nurture a loyal customer base.”

Sourced from GlobalWebIndex