International Polls Of Sustainability Experts And The Public Emphasize Growing Need For Private Sector Leadership On Sustainable Development

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8 in 10 experts fear that governments will not take action short of catastrophe

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Additional findings from the surveys:

A sense of system breakdown: Nearly eight in ten (78%) sustainability experts believe the current economic system must be substantially overhauled and a similar percentage (77%) say that major catastrophes will need to occur before governments will act on sustainability.
New and collaborative models of leadership are key, including social movements and cross-sector partnerships – but government must be involved: Asked to rate the contribution of major societal actors on sustainability since the 1992 Earth Summit, 33% of experts rated the contribution of multi-sector partnerships to sustainable development since the 1992 Earth Summit as “good” or “excellent” – far higher than either government or business alone.
Failing grades on society’s progress since the first Rio Earth Summit in 1992: A matter of weeks before the Rio+20 Earth Summit, fewer than half of the 24,000 citizens surveyed believe that society has become better at protecting the environment, improving economic wellbeing, and creating healthier and more equitable societies. Experts share this view for the most part, but were even more negative on health and equity.
See below for more detailed findings. 

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About the Global Public Opinion Survey

Representative samples of approximately 1,000 adults per country in 23 countries (n=24,441) were interviewed face-to-face or by telephone between December 2011 and February 2012. Questions were rated by half samples in all countries. Polling was conducted by GlobeScan and its research partners in each country. In Brazil, China, Indonesia, Kenya, and Turkey, urban samples were used. The margin of error per country ranges from +/- 2.9 to 4.9 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

About the Survey of Sustainability Experts

The findings are drawn from a GlobeScan / SustainAbility survey of sustainability experts across corporate, government, NGO, academic, research, and service / media organizations in 117 countries. From mid-April to mid-May 2012, a total of 1,603 experts were surveyed online by GlobeScan, SustainAbility and The Regeneration Roadmap partners—ICMM, UNEP, Civicus, WBCSD, World Bank, CBSR, and GLOBE. Participants comprise a highly-experienced respondent pool: 58 percent have more than ten years of experience working on sustainability issues; 31 percent have five to ten years of experience; 12 percent have three to four years of experience.

About The Regeneration Roadmap

The Regeneration Roadmap is a collaborative and multi-faceted initiative by GlobeScan and SustainAbility that aims to provide a roadmap for achieving sustainable development within the next generation, focusing in particular on ways the private sector can improve sustainable development strategy, increase credibility and deliver results at greater speed and scale. The project is presented by BMW Group and SC Johnson and sponsored by DuPont, Interface and Pfizer, and supported by many other partners including UNEP, National Geographic and the World Bank.
For more information and a complete list of supporters, visit

About GlobeScan

For 25 years, GlobeScan has helped clients measure and build value-generating relationships with their stakeholders. Uniquely placed at the nexus of reputation, brand and sustainability, we partner with clients to build trust, drive engagement and inspire innovation within, around and beyond their organizations.
For more information, visit

About SustainAbility

SustainAbility is a think-tank and strategic advisory firm working to inspire transformative business leadership on the sustainability agenda. Established in 1987, SustainAbility delivers illuminating foresight and actionable insight on sustainable development trends and issues.
For more information, visit

Sustainability Expert Findings

The following section examines in detail some of the Sustainability Expert survey results.

Fundamental system rethink is required, according to experts

QUESTION WORDING: Below are pairs of statements that capture some current sustainable development debates. For each pair, please select the statement that is closer to your opinion.

Experts are pessimistic on government’s ability to be proactive

QUESTION WORDING: Below are pairs of statements that capture some current sustainable development debates. For each pair, please select the statement that is closer to your opinion.

National governments receive the worst performance ratings from experts when it comes to contributing to SD

QUESTION WORDING: How would you rate the performance of each of the following types of organizations in terms of its contribution to progress on sustainable development since the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio?

Sustainability experts identify lack of political will as the most significant barrier to progress

QUESTION WORDING: The Rio Earth Summit in 1992, and specifically its Agenda 21 document, provided an agenda for action toward sustainability. Please indicate which three of the following you think are the most significant barriers to progress on Agenda 21.

While we have made progress economically and environmentally in the past 20 years, experts believe we have lost ground socially

QUESTION WORDING: How would you rate society’s progress globally in the past twenty years on the following challenges?

Global Public Opinion Survey Findings

The following section examines in detail some of the Global Public Opinion survey results.

The global public rates scientists and NGOs as making most progress on SD; governments viewed most negatively

QUESTION WORDING: How well would you say each of the following institutions are doing in helping make progress on these economic, social and environmental challenges? How about [ ], is it doing a very good job, a good job, a poor job or a very poor job?.

Globally, people believe only moderate progress has been made since the first Earth Summit…

QUESTION WORDING: For each of the following challenges, please tell me whether you think it has got better, got worse, or stayed about the same over the last twenty years. Is that a lot or somewhat better/worse?

…but a large degree of optimism among the global public that further progress will be made in the next 20 years

QUESTION WORDING: And how optimistic or pessimistic are you that leaders will make progress in addressing each of these challenges over the next twenty years? How about…?