One thing applies to an energy company the same as one making soap or selling bicycles. Namely, your relationship with your customers and the effect on their behavior depends on how much they trust and like you. What’s different about an energy company is that it is involved in an activity that contributes to an existential threat to life on earth. Affordable and clean energy is not only one of the UN’s 2030 goals, it is the one that has perhaps the biggest impact on the other sixteen. So, there has perhaps never been a more important time for energy companies to understand what stakeholders think about them.
Our latest survey on the Energy industry is an in-depth scan of a sector that is both complex, unpredictable and affected by geography and politics. Not to mention unexpected events such as the COVID pandemic.
We even discovered subtle but vital differences between electricity companies and their counterparts drilling for oil and gas. The former enjoying better brand personality and the latter suffering from perceptions of untrustworthiness.
We are all part of the problem, and the solution
All of the 9000 people we surveyed – in Brazil, China, France, Germany, Japan, UK and USA – consume energy and have some form of relationship with the business that powers their fridge or charges their phone. So, what did we learn about how this relationship is working and if they are behaving differently as a result?
Simply put, it is rather unusual. As witnessed at COP 26 in Glasgow, the path towards greener, sustainable energy is a journey that is overshadowed by a kind of blame game. Green land is a destination that most people want to arrive at but not everyone can agree who should take action to make it a reality. Or who is responsible for creating the problem in the first place.
The energy sector is expected to decarbonize under pressure from customers who are, ironically, creating the demand. Social media posts feature power stations pumping out clouds of smoke, angering consumers whose houses are full of electric devices and gadgets. Is this something for policy makers to sort out? Or is it a shared responsibility between energy companies and their customers? Isn’t seismic behavioral change required here, given the enormity of the task?
Energy companies can help us change our habits
Our survey shows that people give different answers to these questions depending on where they live. But one thing is universally true: it seems that people say they are doing their bit for climate change, and they know they need to address their energy usage. Yet they are taking action that involves very little personal effort or sacrifice – and the action declines, the older the person.
For example, many people are remembering to turn off lights. Some are mindful of not spending too long in the shower. Very few of them are buying solar panels or electric vehicles. (Our survey lists all the activities, ranked in percentage order.)
However, perhaps these rather depressing observations are an opportunity in disguise. Maybe this is a chance for the energy companies to redeem their reputation by educating and helping its customers about how to make these behavioral changes.
In other words, the most trusted and liked energy companies of tomorrow may be the ones who show people how to use less of their products.
Get our 2021 Energy Industry report to learn more
Form your own opinion by immersing yourself in the findings of our 2021 Energy Industry report. In a sector where the reputational landscape is shifting, it is another example of the clarity that comes from continually listening to people, rather than being influenced purely by media or those with a vested interest in creating perceptions to impress shareholders or markets.