Experts Confident that COP21 Will Lead to an International Agreement, Predict that Business Will Be Key to Its Implementation Post-2015

Technology and consumer companies dominate the global ranking of corporate leaders; renewable energy and technological innovation seen as key drivers of leadership on climate change

LONDON, 12 November 2015 – Experts predict that business will be key to the success of climate change action post-COP21 Summit in Paris next month, according to the findings from a new study exploring leadership on climate change. Whilst a significant majority (92%) of experts are confident that the UN conference on Climate Change will result in a global agreement, only 32% believe that it will have binding powers.
Confidence in the ability of governments to agree on a framework in Paris that would reduce emissions in line with the 2C target is virtually non-existent (4%) and the removal of subsidies for fossil fuels (82%) was rated the most effective economic instrument to contain global warming by experts.
Scientific institutions and civil society are seen making the largest contribution to advancing climate change with more than half of all respondents viewing their record positively. The future contribution of national governments and business will be key to the implementation of the post-Paris framework. Eighty six percent (86%) of experts predict that the private sector will play an “important” or “very important” role, and 90% of respondents believe the same to be true for national governments. However, gaps between recent performance and future expectation mean that both institutions will have to step up their efforts.
The GlobeScan/SustainAbility Survey is one the longest-running expert surveys on sustainability-related topics of its kind. For the 2015 Climate Survey, expert stakeholders representing business, governments, NGOs, and academia shared their expectations for the COP21 meeting in Paris and provided insights about the role of various actors and climate change strategies post-2015.
Eric Whan, Sustainability Director at GlobeScan, said of the findings that: “The convening parties, the UN and its national members, are not expected to deliver a result that the science says we need at Paris. Meanwhile, expectations are high that solutions will flow from the private sector almost as much as from national governments post-Paris, whatever the outcome. The pressure is on, and the companies that get this right will be the ones thriving 20 years from now.”
Opinions of expert stakeholders from 69 countries show that there has been a big turnover in perceived corporate leaders on climate change since Copenhagen in 2009, citing a whole new set of champions including Unilever, Tesla, IKEA, Google, General Electric and Walmart.
Aiste Brackley, Research Manager at SustainAbility commented: “The landscape of corporate leadership is dominated by technology and consumer companies that have been at the forefront of investing in renewable energy and low carbon solutions – and being vocal about their initiatives on the global stage. The landscape has significantly changed in recent years as only three companies (General Electric, Walmart and Toyota) that were included in the 2009 ranking made it onto the list this year.”
Over 600 experts were asked which companies are leaders in climate change and amongst international companies, Unilever is seen as having made the largest contribution to advancing solutions to climate change in the last five years. The corporate landscape has significantly shifted since 2009 when General Electric was seen as the leader and two oil and gas companies – BP and Shell – were included in the list.
Other key findings from the survey showed that:

  • Investments in renewable energy and technological innovation were the most frequently cited reasons for perceived climate change leadership in individual companies reflecting a strong belief that by undertaking such initiatives companies are addressing the issue in a real and substantive way.
  • Economic instruments continue to be seen as the most effective approach in providing solutions to climate change on the global scale. More than 80% of experts say that the removal of subsidies for the fossil fuel industry is the most effective of available economic instruments.
  • Views on the most effective climate strategies differ across geographies. European experts (35%) see regulatory approaches as the most effective strategy to address climate change at the macro level, while North American respondents (38%) give preference to economic instruments.  Behavioral approaches such as public education are twice as popular in the emerging nations (21%) as in the industrialized world.

Ben Ferrari, Director of Partnerships at The Climate Group, added: “While confidence in success at COP21 will undoubtedly be up and down across sectors and regions, corporate members of The Climate Group have long expressed their unwavering confidence in the global low carbon economy – which goes far beyond Paris. Having witnessed innovations in clean technology and climate policy gather momentum over the past years, the private sector is now investing heavily in low carbon activities.”

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About SustainAbility

SustainAbility is a think tank and consultancy that for over 25 years has catalyzed and supported business leadership on sustainability. Through our agenda-setting research and advocacy, we chart new territory and help business leaders and their stakeholders understand what’s next. Through our advisory services, we help clients understand the shifting landscape of risk and opportunity, develop practical strategies and initiatives, and foster authentic, impactful engagement and collaboration with a range of stakeholders. Learn more at

About The Climate Group

The Climate Group is an award-winning, international non-profit. Our goal is a prosperous, low carbon future. We believe this will be achieved through a ‘clean revolution’: the rapid scale-up of low carbon energy and technology.
We work with corporate and government partners to develop climate finance mechanisms, business models which promote innovation, and supportive policy frameworks. We convene leaders, share hard evidence of successful low carbon growth, and pilot practical solutions which can be replicated worldwide.  Learn more at