LONDON — New research from global reputation research company Echo Research has found that two-thirds of under-35s in the US and the UK have now taken part in marches or protests, written to government or companies or signed petitions.

In the UK, 53% of adults polled, and 57% of adults in the US, claim to have written to government or companies, signed petitions and taken part in marches or protests. Among 18-34 year olds, the activism is higher still, at 64% and 68% of the 1,000 people polled.

The Populism vs Capitalism study, which includes interviews with over 50 C-suite business leaders, showed that 67% of businesses in the UK are concerned about rising populism and activism. In the past month alone, media reporting on activism was up 66%, with more than 300,000 social media posts, 80% posted by under-35s, on topics from Extinction Rebellion through to concerns about climate change, sexism and racism.

The study also found that capitalism is increasingly in the public eye, with media attention in the UK and US up 43% over the past five years. (See here for Paul Holmes’ recent analysis of whether CEOs can save capitalism.)

Launching the results at the annual Echo Research Summit in London this week, group CEO Sandra Macleod said: “The business community and society are facing unprecedented challenges and upheavals.”

She added: “People are mobilising. This is all giving rise to greater challenges to governments and businesses as they come to terms with greater calls for change, accountability and action. We see that populism is on the rise, fed by fears and frustrations over inequalities, disadvantage, mistrust of elites and their seeming lack of action on the things that matter whereas capitalism is being questioned with its mistakes, misuse and seeming misalignment with societal goals.”

While Echo’s survey shows increasing distrust of big business (trusted by less than 40% of respondents) and government (trusted by only around 20%), it mirrored the findings from Edelman’s Trust Barometer this year, which showed trust in employers is relatively strong (on average close to half trust their employers) and in small businesses stronger still: 74% in the US and 70% in the UK. In general, % respondents said they thought business was a force for good (60%).

“Entrepreneurs, employee-owned and purpose-driven businesses, increasing competition, collaboration and innovation are part of the solution to restoring trust in business. Policy makers and regulators need to become enablers of that change,” said Macleod.