Media analysis by Cision: protests and politics determine ESG topics

A media analysis by Cision in Germany shows that environment and social issues top the ESG agenda - environment, social and corporate governance. The topic of corporate governance comes up the least.

Cision's media analysis examined posts in traditional media as well as on Twitter (now X), Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Reddit, forums and Tumblr. For comparison, the experts also examined posts in English, Spanish, French and Italian.

"Companies are constantly becoming more transparent, also because of the increasing ESG reporting requirements, and at the same time are easily confronted with accusations of greenwashing. In terms of communication, they should show a clear stance on ESG issues and provide concrete examples of their progress," says Manuela Schreckenbach, Head of Insights Consulting DACH at Cision. Even if consistently only about one percent of ESG reporting in Germany is associated with DAX companies, communicators must remain vigilant.

ESG focuses strongly on environmental issues in Germany

In Germany, ESG topics became even more visible in the first half of 2023 (+36 percent) than on average over the previous three years. The focus is very much on the environment and climate: In the same period, ecological topics increased by 74 percent, social topics by eight percent and topics relating to corporate governance by six percent.

Environmental topics already accounted for 51 percent of ESG coverage in German-language media reports in 2020, rising to 70 percent in 2023. The focus of environmental topics is on climate protests, heat waves and politics with the new climate protection law and the heating dispute. 29 percent of emotions and sentiments in all ESG media mentions are negative, characterized by anger, disgust, sadness or fear.

The agenda looks different in the international comparative markets: There, social issues lead the way throughout the analyzed period, with values around 70 percent of ESG coverage. The media report and discuss human rights violations, racism, LGBTQ rights and "wokeism.

It is striking that in all the languages analyzed, the topic of corporate governance features very little in the context of ESG reporting. However, the analysis clearly shows that protests and politics dominate the ESG agenda. Incidentally, 7.9 percent of ESG reports are related to political parties - seven to eight times as much as to Dax companies.

Declining willingness to consume environmentally friendly products

For the analysis, not only media were evaluated, but also other studies and surveys. "By combining the data, we can add more depth to the classic media analysis and point more directly to concrete recommendations for action," explains Jonas Kolbe, Senior Insights Strategist at Cision. For example, according to the Global Web Index GWI, in 2023 only 53 percent of respondents said, "I would pay more for environmentally friendly products," a full 5.9 percent less than in 2020. In contrast, coverage of environmental issues in German media increased by 74 percent over the same period.

Overall, the study shows that ESG issues - despite multiple crises - remain very present in traditional media and social channels. When cross-referenced with survey data, the analysis shows that despite consumers' decreasing willingness to pay more money for environmentally friendly products or less interest in whether companies are taking social responsibility, public discussions in media and on social platforms around ESG issues have increased between January 2020 and June 2023. In addition, discussions around environmental and social issues have been shown to be more heated and politically charged.

The complete media analysis "ESG: Trends in Coverage in Germany's Media." is available in German and English with tips for companies on the Cision website.

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