As Australia plans carbon tax, views remain polarized around the potential economic harm of measures to cut greenhouse gas emissions

We regularly track the global public’s view of whether attempts to cut emissions of climate changing gases risk significantly damaging the economy. In most countries surveyed, opinion is polarized on this issue —suggesting that finding politically viable ways to reduce emissions will remain a daunting challenge.

In Australia, plans to impose a tax on carbon emissions for the worst polluters have met with plenty of opposition; currently only the EU and New Zealand have managed to introduce a national tax on carbon. In Europe, slight majorities tend to disagree that action on climate change will damage economies; majorities also held this view in Australia, Canada, China, and Japan when polling was carried out last year.

However, people in several countries, including the USA, the UK, Brazil, Japan, and Canada, were becoming less likely to think that greenhouse gas emission cuts would damage the economy, suggesting the developed-world public may be becoming more receptive to mitigating initiatives as the immediate economic crisis has receded. American views have shifted dramatically over the course of the recession, with a spike in 2009 in the proportion worried about the effect on the economy.

A number of emerging economies, including India, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Kenya, have seen the reverse trend with a recent sharp increase in concern about the potential economic harm of measures to address climate change. This suggests that the issue will remain politically potent as the rapid growth in many of these economies continues.


Finding from the GlobeScan Radar, Wave 2, 2010 

For more information on this finding, please contact Sam Mountford (Read Bio)

Clothing companies and consumer expectations – transparency tops the list

GlobeScan has been tracking consumer expectations towards business in society for a number of years. We routinely find that the global public have the highest expectations of companies around their core operational responsibilities – the safety of their products and services, how they treat the environment, and how they treat their workforce and supply chain. We have also noted a major increase in consumer expectations around transparency in recent years.

Looking at the various stages of the product lifecycle for clothing manufacturers, we find that expectations in the UK and USA are fully in line with this global picture. Consumer expectations are highest around a company‘s level of transparency with its customers about the social and environmental impact of its products, which is regarded as ‘very important‘ by over half of both UK and US consumers. In both countries, the second most important consideration is about a company’s social and environmental responsibility itself.

Expectations around the way it sources its fabrics, and its responsibilities to educate the public around caring for and disposing for their clothes are currently less well developed.

But this underlines the key task for companies in communicating with consumers – to meet consumers’ demand for reliable information. People want reliable, verifiable information presented in an accessible way, to allow them to make informed choices.


Finding from the GlobeScan Radar, Wave 1, 2011 

For more information on this finding, please contact Sam Mountford (Read Bio)

North Americans and Australians rank highest as ethical consumers

Canadian, American, and Australian consumers are among the most active and empowered ethical consumers in the world, while Indian consumers rank at the bottom, according to the 2011 GlobeScan Ethical Consumerism Funnel.

This is the result of analysis of results to a range of questions asked in our annual survey of consumer attitudes towards business in society. Filtering consumers to identify only those who are both highly attentive to responsible business and active as ethical consumers, we can see that as many as three-in-ten Canadians, and more than one-quarter of Americans and Australians, profess high expectations on companies to act responsibly in the areas of product safety, environmental integrity, and employee treatment, while claiming to be aware of what companies do to be responsible, and in addition also say they reward and punish companies for being socially responsible or irresponsible in their purchasing choices. However, the proportion of aware and active ethical consumers in the USA has decreased over the past two years, possibly as a result of persistent economic concerns.

Emerging major markets Brazil, China, and India rank low on GlobeScan’s ethical consumerist index, as consumers there expect less of companies and say they are less aware of companies’ CSR activities, while they are also less likely to make their purchasing choices based on perception of companies’ acting responsibly or irresponsibly. This suggests that while consumers are becoming more aware in these nations, the responsible business agenda has yet to break through to the mainstream consumer, and that companies will need to frame their CSR messaging within the context of economic growth and job creation in these countries.


Finding from the GlobeScan Radar, Wave 1, 2011 

For more information on this finding, please contact Sam Mountford (Read Bio)

Indonesia and India Among World’s Most Entrepreneur-Friendly Nations

Much of GlobeScan’s recent global public opinion tracking points to the surge of economic confidence and optimism in Asia, even in the wake of global recession. Last year’s Consumer Sentiment Index revealed that Asian consumers were among the most upbeat, and results from our most recent 24-nation survey for BBC World Service on entrepreneurship ranks several Asian countries among the world’s most entrepreneur-friendly.

We asked people to say how hard they felt it was for people like them to start a business in their country, whether their country values creativity and innovation, whether it values entrepreneurs and whether people with good ideas can usually put them into practice. Indonesia and India emerged as among the top five countries in terms of their climate for entrepreneurs, joined by the USA, Canada and Australia. Colombia, Egypt, Turkey, Italy and Russia were the least entrepreneur-friendly. The biggest Asian giant of all, China, ranked alongside the USA as the country where innovation and creativity was felt to be most valued.

But many barriers to entrepreneurship remain—in 23 out of 24 countries, majorities said that they felt it was hard for people like them to start a business. It seems likely that if the feeble global economic recovery is to be maintained, some of those barriers will need to be removed.


Finding from the GlobeScan Radar, Wave 2, 2010

For more information on this finding, please contact Sam Mountford (Read Bio)

Sustainability experts view nuclear power as ‘not essential’ to low-carbon future

A majority of sustainability experts believe society can achieve a sustainable, low-carbon energy future without nuclear power, according to the latest findings from The Sustainability Survey Research Program released Monday by international consultancies, GlobeScan and SustainAbility. Also, most experts view nuclear technology less favourably after the crises at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant, although nearly half say their view of the technology has not changed as a result of the crises.

Experts perceive a significant gap between how governments SHOULD and how governments WILL proceed with respect to various other energy options. Four in five experts think their government should subsidize solar and energy efficiency initiatives, but only half think their government actually will do so.

More than 500 experts were surveyed in May 2011 on topics relating to the future of energy. The Sustainability Survey is the largest global poll of the views of sustainability experts.


Finding from The 2011 GlobeScan/SustainAbility Survey (read the press release / read the full report)

For more information on this finding, please contact Sam Mountford (Read Bio)

Industry Regulation and Public Expectation: High in the OECD, High in Countries’ Critical Sectors

Public demand for increased regulation is markedly higher in industrialised nations than in emerging economies, the latest GlobeScan Radar data show.

Respondents across 20 countries were asked to say whether they thought there was not enough, the right amount, or too much regulation across eight industry sectors.

North America, northern Europe and Australia all emerge as regions where demand for regulation across the board is high. China is the only emerging economy which shares this perspective—perhaps an indication of the widespread assumption that government playing a central role in the economy. High demand for more regulation in the USA is clearly at variance with current political rhetoric that demands less ‘big government’. Those in developing nations in Africa and Latin America, in contrast, seem to prefer a light touch approach to regulation while their economies develop.

The findings also reveal that it is often the sector that is critical to the local economy that faces highest public expectations for tight regulation—for instance, the mining sector in Chile (particularly after the recent incident when miners were trapped underground for several months), the oil industry in the USA or the banking sector in the UK. Companies in the sectors in question can expect to come under significant pressure and scrutiny from government and other stakeholders in these key countries to ensure they meet public demands to operate responsibly.


Finding from the GlobeScan Radar, Wave 2, 2010

For more information on this finding, please contact Sam Mountford (Read Bio)

Climate concern falls sharply, but public remains conflicted

Public concern about climate change has been on the up since the late 1990s. Fifteen years ago, those who saw it as a very serious environmental issue were significantly outnumbered by those who worried about more tangible and immediate environmental concerns—water pollution and air pollution among them—but by 2009 climate concern had substantially caught up with other environmental worries. Contrary to what many expected, climate concern continued to rise as recession hit, but the last year has seen a sharp … “Climate concern falls sharply, but public remains conflicted”

Increased Concern over GM Crops in Many Countries, Particularly USA

Genetic modification of food crops is an issue on which public concern has increased significantly in a number of countries over the last few years. Most notably, despite the wide prevalence of GM foods available for sale in the US, this is the market where public concern about genetic modification has increased most sharply—the proportion rating GM crops as a very serious issue now stands at 41 per cent, up 16 points since 2003. Despite the high media profile in the UK and refusal by many major food retailers to stock GM foods, concern there is lower. It is highest in Mexico, where nearly two-thirds consider the issue to be serious.


Finding from the GlobeScan Radar, Wave 2, 2010

For more information on this finding, please contact Sam Mountford (Read Bio)

First Signs of Recovery in Global Public’s Assessment of Companies’ CSR

GlobeScan’s latest tracking of global public expectations and perceptions around business in society reveals that, after a decade in which consumers’ assessment of the corporate world’s performance in embracing social and environmental responsibility worsened steadily, companies may be starting to claw back some public esteem.

The gulf between what people expect of companies in terms of CSR, and how they rate their performance remains substantial, as this 15-country chart illustrates. But this year’s data shows that, at least in industrialized nations, companies’ investment and focus on communicating a responsible message to the public over the last decade may be starting to pay dividends. Continued improvement will very likely depend on companies’ ability to deploy their corporate brands in a credible and holistic way in their CSR messaging.


Finding from GlobeScan Radar Wave 1, 2011

For more information on this finding, please contact Sam Mountford (Read Bio)

Enthusiasm for Free Market Drops Sharply in USA

This finding is being featured in The Economist

American public support for the free market economy has dropped sharply in the past year, and is now lower than in China and Brazil, and equal to that in India. The GlobeScan Radar 2010 findings show that there has been a sharp fall in the number of Americans who think that the free market economy is the best economic system for the future. In 2002, four in five Americans (80%) saw the free market as the best economic system for the future—the highest level of support anywhere in the world. Support started to fall away in the following years and recovered slightly after the financial crisis in 2007/8, but has plummeted since 2009, falling 15 points in a year so that less than three in five (59%) now see free market capitalism as the best system for the future.


Finding from GlobeScan Radar Wave 2, 2010 

For more information on this finding, please contact Sam Mountford.