NEW YORK — Despite all the talk of an ESG backlash, an overwhelming majority of Americans believe corporations have a responsibility to address societal issues, according to new research from Global Strategy Group.

GSG’s 2023 Business and Politics Report found most Americans don’t support ongoing attacks against “woke capitalism,” with 77% of respondents saying companies should promote social change and 88% approving of those that have a positive impact on their communities.

In fact, only a very small minority of Americans who identify as “very-conservative” (15%) disapprove of companies that take stands on issues. And they are not having a major impact on consumer behavior.

The survey of 1,003 US adults found that only 36% of Republicans have boycotted a company due to its stance on an issue. Just 8% of respondents think investigating how US companies spend money on ESG issues should be a priority for Congress.

In addition, GSG has found that high-profile companies known for taking stands on issues — Nike, Disney and NFL among others — have not lost their favorability over the last six years.

Which doesn’t mean companies can ignore the threat of reputational and political risk posed by anti-ESG activists, who are successfully garnering politicians' attention.

Texas, Louisiana, Florida, West Virginia, and Missouri, for example, have taken action against BlackRock and other ESG-conscious financial institutions, prohibiting them from managing state pensions. The movement has also gained traction at the federal level, GSG said.

“Highly coordinated attacks from right-wing activists and MAGA politicians are forcing some companies to reexamine ESG carefully and recalibrate how and when to engage on social and political issues,” the report said. “Unfortunately, it’s not just rhetoric. The warnings have turned into threats of legislation, regulation, and investigation.”

There are steps companies can take to safeguard against those risks, however, GSG said.

Focusing efforts on customers, employees and communities, and choosing issues that are authentic to a company are among them. So is tweaking language so that the term ESG is replaced with “issues that bring about social change."Iincluding all of a company's internal teams so that controversial issues are not made in vacuums is as well, the agency said.