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The most (and least) socially responsible industries in Australia

Arts leading in being Socially Responsible

(Updated with latest data March 12 2022)

We recently utilised Glow’s unique ESG (environment, social and governance)  measurement  methodology to test how socially responsible consumers believe various industries to be. The purpose of this metric is to provide a consumer lens on the impact organisations are having on the wider community stemming from their various ESG efforts.

Of the commercially focussed industries we assessed, the Food and grocery sector scored the highest social responsibility score.  

Previous analysis undertaken as part of the Catalyst program has shown that the Food & Grocery industry’s score is reflecting a perceived strength in the area of social and governance but consumers believe the sector needs to do more to address important environmental challenges, particularly through a focus on reducing plastic and managing waste. 


most and least socially responsible industries in Australia
Industry social responsibility scores

 At the other end of the scale the Industries considered the least socially responsible include gambling and sports betting, alcoholic drink manufacturers, natural resource extraction and social media.

The social media industry’s score is linked to one of the issues tracked by the Catalyst program – misinformation.  Its impact on public perception of issues, and in particular anti-vax sentiment, has become a key focus for Australians in recent times, with the social media industry seen as the main contributor to the spread of what is considered misinformation.

Reducing the extent and severity of misinformation circulating on the platforms will likely be the big factor in improving the industry’s social responsibility score going forward as is the idea of providing users with balanced content as opposed to reinforcing the beliefs they already hold. For an interesting overview of this effect, please see The Social Dilemma documentary.

Misinformation is also a driving influence behind the relatively poor perception of Media and News networks and this issue is spreading into other areas as ‘news like’ content spreads across other platforms.  Case in point; this week’s flare up between artist Neil Young and Spotify over mis-information being spread through Spotify’s most-popular podcast. Unfortunately, it demonstrated another case of side-stepping responsibility by a platform with increasing influence over younger audiences.    

The gambling, sports betting and alcohol sectors all score poorly as a result of their perceived negative social impacts in areas including mental, physical and financial wellbeing.    

Major industries with room to improve relative to others include fast food outlets and Australia’s banking industry with Australians ranking both in the bottom 10 industries in terms of their social responsibility. Whilst reducing their impact on the environment through plastic pollution is an easy win for the fast food industry, for banking it is likely more complex due to the leadership role they have in our economy. 

With climate change such a significant concern for Australians, there appears to be room for improvement in persuading Australians that banks are doing all they can to help address the social and environmental issues faced by the community.

Funding fossil fuel projects such as the reported financing of the purchase of Woodside Petroleum’s Karratha lng project are examples of areas with room for improvement for banks. On the flipside there are a number of emerging banks such as Bank Australia that are structured to help make a positive impact on people and the planet. 

The purpose of the SRS metric is to help industries and brands understand what consumers think of their behaviour in these critical areas of social, environmental and governance performance. 

We believe that by measuring perception we can help businesses understand how to do better, so they can strike the right balance between shareholder returns and community expectations.


If you want to know how your brand is seen, find your social responsibility score here.  

If you want to learn about the major concerns consumers have regarding social and environmental issues then sign-up to Catalyst, an open-source research program.  Access the data free by signing up to the email alerts here.  Glow is a proud partner and research technology provider to the Catalyst program.  

By Eddie Kowalski, Catalyst Program Director