Does Corporate Sustainability Need to Account for Consumer Trust?

Caterina Sullivan
3 min readOct 11, 2021

In the corporate world, a number of organisations routinely use ranking systems to determine the most ‘ethical’, ‘sustainable’, ‘fair’ or ‘just’ companies.

But what does this mean in real terms for the consumer?

Many of these ranking systems are weighted in a certain way to give greater importance to some areas of sustainability over others.

One notable ranking system puts particular emphasis on internal governance but sees the environment for accounting for less than 10% of the overall score.

On face value to consumers who are passionate about seeing meaningful environmental change, these companies are leading the way. However, upon further investigation, consumers find that these companies may not be performing so well in this area.

There is also the issue of public controversies in which some large companies often find themselves intertwined. When these controversies, justified or otherwise, do not seem to affect companies’ rankings, many consumers begin to question the system in which the companies are found to be good corporate citizens.

This begs the question whether or not these ranking systems need to include a focus on consumer trust. What does a company do to position itself in the community to be seen as an ally rather than an enemy by the general public? How does this translate in terms of impact on the ground economically, socially and environmentally?

As innovation begins to progress faster than the law, companies are able to operate more often in a legal grey area. This causes companies to see a hit to their moral standing within the broader community but not necessarily see their rankings affected due to their avoidance of participating in any ‘technically’ illegal behaviour.

Consumers are also wanting to see a distinction between different areas of sustainability. For example, some consumers would weigh environment far more heavily than governance. It is important that differing perspectives and priorities on sustainability as seen on a consumer by consumer basis are taken into account.

It is difficult to put the burden of responsibility on the individual citizen to do their full research into…

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Caterina Sullivan

Chief Executive | Business Founder | Change Agent | Inspirational Leader | High Achiever | Role Model | Award-Winner