Posted on 25th January 2022


The Social Market Foundation think-tank found that FTSE-100 companies are 64 times more likely to address environmental issues than to discuss poverty in their statements about Environmental, Social and Governance work. Governance issues also receive vastly more attention from big UK firms than concerns about employees, suppliers, and stakeholders living in poverty, the SMF said in a new report.

The SMF carried out a keyword analysis of the most recent annual reports of all FTSE-100 firms and found that companies put far more focus on the environmental and governance elements of ESG than on their social responsibilities. The word "governance" appears 176 times on average in an annual report. "Environment" is typically mentioned 64 times. But "poverty" was mentioned only once on average. In all, 53 of the FTSE 100 companies made no mention of poverty in their reports, even though all committed to the ESG agenda.

The SMF said the analysis shows that the "S" in ESG is being overlooked, calling on businesses to pay more attention to poverty among their workforce, supply chain, and community.

The report is part of an SMF project with Trust for London, a grant-giving body. The project is working with leading businesses and experts to develop and promote practical ways for business to contribute to action on poverty.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has calculated that 14.5 million people - including 8.1 million working-age adults and 4.3 million children - are in poverty in the UK.

The SMF report follows research by Hanbury Strategy showing that the public are unimpressed by companies making "responsible business" promises on social issues and want executives to focus on ensuring people are properly paid.

James Kirkup, SMF Director, said "the ESG agenda has the potential to do real good for the world. But the immediate social aspects of that agenda are too often ignored, putting the whole exercise at risk. Companies that want to do good should start by ensuring their own people aren't living in poverty."

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