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More Brits believe in aliens than understand ESG...

By: Michael Bennett, Managing Director - Sustainability Practice

This arresting headline appeared in City A.M. in mid-October and left me pondering about the preponderance of TLAs (three letter acronyms) and how they can get in the way of good communications.

The basic gist of the story was that: “The City appears to be losing its battle to explain ‘ESG’ to normal Brits as precious few claim to know what the Square Mile’s favourite acronym even means.”


This was according to “a new survey” (classic PR Tactic) which revealed “just 13 per cent of the British public have a ‘good understanding’ of what ESG is – up only one per cent on last year”

The story went on to say that: “more Brits even claimed to have even been visited by aliens, according to a 2021 survey conducted by polling firm YouGov” than understood ESG.

Personally I’m amazed so many people believe in aliens, but that aside, the key point is that the general public really don’t know what Environmental and Social Governance is. And why should they? It’s jargon for the good stuff businesses are trying to achieve at the same time as turning a profit.


The term has become a real buzzword for investors, to the point where a lawyer quoted in the article claimed, “the term ‘ESG’ is at risk of being so overused in such a wide variety of subjects as to become meaningless and potentially off-putting to investors”.

Blackrock boss Larry Fink, apparently a big fan of ESG until last year, has according to the report: “now ditched it completely and said it had been ‘weaponised’ by extreme political figures on the left and right.” 

From my point of view, whatever you think about the acronym, the ESG concept remains relevant as a way for an organisation to think about and develop meaningful actions and to present its aims, plans and actions to its stakeholders.

That said if you want what you’re doing to be understood and appreciated by as much of your audience as possible, the only acronym to go for is KISS (keep it simple stupid). Talking in terms of ESG, CSR or any of the other jargon we experts use will only increase the ‘fog factor’.


Communication is only effective when we communicate in a way that is meaningful to the recipient and not ourselves.

So if businesses want to better explain their ESG activity to those of us who have and haven’t been visited by aliens, start telling people what it means to them in ways that are simple easy to understand.

The Jargon Group’s Sustainability Practice has extensive expertise in food, packaging, waste, recycling, energy and trade associations. We provide a range of services including strategy, design, content creation, public relations, CSR reporting, video and animation production.

You can trust us to deliver marketing and communications expertise in many areas, including ESG!


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