The Ritz Herald
A climate protest outside of the Capitol in March 2019. © J. Scott Applewhite

Climate Change Replaces Living Wage as Top Social Issue Confronting Corporate Brands


HLG Releases 2020 Brand Pressure Index Tracking Social Issues Impacting Corporate Brands

Published on January 24, 2020

High Lantern Group, a strategic consulting firm specializing in business leadership and reputation, today released the second edition of its Brand Pressure Index, a comprehensive measure of social issues impacting corporate brands.

Climate change leads the new rankings, replacing living wage as the issue creating the greatest social pressure on corporate brands. Sustainability issues overall jumped significantly year over year, comprising 6 of the top 20 business issues. Facebook, Amazon, and Alphabet were the top three corporate brands being targeted by the most influential public actors. Boeing and McDonald’s rounded out the top five.

The HLG Brand Pressure Index provides a comprehensive measure of social issues at the forefront of public discourse with the greatest impact on corporate brands, as prioritized by a universe of 3,000 leading activists, influencers and political figures. The analysis spans 6.2 million tweets in 2019 in association with 300 top social issues and their intersection with 1,000 top corporate brands.

Key insights include:

  • Climate change is now the #1 brand pressure issue, with a 77% increase in mentions of corporate brands in association with the issue by leading public actors over the past 12 months. The issue replaces the living wage as the topic affecting most companies.
  • Plant & lab-based foods is #2, with a 274% increase, due to rising concerns about food production & consumption and association with responsible behavior and sustainability.
  • Living wage has declined. Labor insecurity issues – while high on the list – have declined year over year – suggesting that those flashpoints may have crested as businesses work to increase wages and implement education and retraining programs.
  • Data security and privacy issues have declined at an even faster rate – although these issues tend to be incident-driven and could rise again quickly if a new flashpoint occurs.
  • Overall issue-related pressure against businesses increased 3.8% in the past year in comparison to the previous twelve months, signaling public expectations of corporations to lead on issues will continue.

“Engaging on social issues is now a necessary feature of business strategy,” said Rob Gluck, Managing Partner of High Lantern Group. “The decision every CEO must make is how to engage on these issues in a way that is true to their brand and leverages the core competencies of their business.”

ISSUE RANKINGS: Ranking of issues confronting businesses, as prioritized by 3,000 elite stakeholders. The % change compares brand mentions by leading activists and influencers with the prior 12 months (2018).


CORPORATE PRESSURE RANKINGS: Ranking of companies facing the greatest volume of issue-related pressure from leading stakeholders, across 300 social issues. The % change shows a comparison to the prior 12 months (2018).


INDUSTRY PRESSURE RANKINGS: Ranking of industries facing issue related pressure, across 300 social issues. Share of industry pressure shows the % of total industry pressure. The % change shows a comparison to the prior 12-month period (2018).

Maxx Quinten, Executive Editor
Deputy Editor