Family-owned firms lag on setting ESG priorities – PwC survey

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Price Waterhouse Coopers is seen at its Berlin office in Berlin, Germany, September 20, 2019. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay/File Photo

ZURICH (Reuters) – Family-owned businesses are falling behind on setting environmental and social standards, with just over a third having set a sustainability strategy, a survey published by PwC on Tuesday found.

While family-owned companies – particularly in Europe and the United States – looked to charitable giving and helping employees during the COVID-19 pandemic, most put sustainability on the back burner, the consulting firm’s survey of 2,801 family business owners showed.

Without the investor pressure that listed companies face to conform to and set environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards, family businesses have implemented what PwC described as an “increasingly out-of-date conception of how businesses should respond to society”.

“It is clear that family businesses globally have a strong commitment to a wider social purpose,” Peter Englisch, global family business leader at PwC, said in a statement.

Most of them had made retaining staff a priority during the pandemic, for example, and some 80% engaged in proactive social responsibility in some form, often via philanthropy.

But more than three-quarters of the U.S.-based family businesses and 60% of those in Britain placed greater emphasis on direct societal contributions, mainly through charity, over a strategic approach to ESG matters.

Asian family businesses far outperformed their American and European peers in the self-reported incorporation of sustainability into their fundamental approach to business, the survey found.

The report noted that larger family businesses, and those owned by second- or later-generation family members, also showed a greater focus on sustainability.

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