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ESG Performance Tops List of Corporate Affairs Risk Priorities Globally for Organisations

ESG also Dominates the List of Corporate Affairs Functional Priorities

15th July 2021 – ESG performance tops the list of Corporate Affairs risk priorities globally for organisations (46%), according to a new survey report launched today by the University of Oxford and GlobeScan. Corporate Affairs experts point to climate change as the most-pressing ESG issue for global businesses over the next two years followed by net zero / carbon emissions and inequality in society.

Pandemic management (32%) is the second-highest Corporate Affairs risk priority in a shift that emphasises more human concerns. Less urgency is placed on the broader, longer-term issues of macro-economic risks (20%) and regulation (17%).

Employees are the most important stakeholders, with shareholders and governments rounding out the top three, reflecting the impact of COVID-19. Employees are also the number-one stakeholder group globally and across almost all sectors.

Following the inaugural Oxford-GlobeScan Global Corporate Affairs Survey in 2020, this year’s survey report provides an overview of opinions, trends, and challenges through the lens of Corporate Affairs practitioners. We captured the views and insights of 228 senior professionals who were surveyed in February and March of 2021 on issues and themes of relevance to the Corporate Affairs function.

Against the combined backdrop of climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, and geopolitical pressure, the survey looked at where the function has been spending time over the last 12 months and which areas have grown in prominence. The appetite for corporate activism is strong in all sectors globally, with over 75 percent of organisations having either “some appetite” or a “strong appetite” for corporate activism, except in the financial services sector where the number is still material but slightly lower (67%). Regionally the picture is similar, with over 75 percent of organisations in all regions having “some appetite” or a “strong appetite,” except for in Asia-Pacific where this number is considerably lower at 60 percent.

Rupert Younger, Director, Centre for Corporate Reputation Research and Corporate Affairs Academy, Saïd Business School, Oxford University, said: “What is most striking about this report is the speed at which ESG commitments have become the most critical dimension of corporate reputation strategies.  For years, ESG was a topic for the investor relations department using broad sustainability report data. In 2018, only 18 percent of respondents saw ESG as a “top three pressing risk” to global business.  Our 2021 survey report sees this jump to 46 percent. Today, ESG commitments are a defining aspect of perceived corporate character, shaping the way in which different stakeholders interact with the organisations that they do business with.”

Trust continues to be a significant driver of Corporate Affairs strategy. There has been a marked increase in the percentage of Corporate Affairs leaders who believe that their organisations are now trusted by society, up to 41 percent from 26 percent last year. This acknowledges the way in which companies have acted at pace and at scale in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, organisations still face a trust deficit in relation to other institutions.

Chris Coulter, CEO of GlobeScan, said: “One of the most important things Corporate Affairs teams try to achieve is to have their companies trusted by stakeholders. The growing sense that respondents’ companies are more trusted this year than last is also borne out by GlobeScan’s annual global public opinion research, where we have seen a significant increase in the general public’s trust in large companies. The combination of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, engaging more deeply on ESG issues, and reinforcing purpose across their businesses have likely all contributed to these stronger levels of trust.”

Corporate purpose is similarly an area of organisational concern that is receiving ever greater attention. This year, many more companies have articulated purpose statements (83%) and say that it has a growing influence on decision-making. But when it comes to the actual impact of purpose on organisations, the results reveal some clear areas of concern. Strong stewardship from leadership has fallen away and only around a third of companies believe that their employees understand how what they do helps to deliver on the company’s purpose. The hard work is just beginning when it comes to ensuring that not only is purpose grounded in fact, but that it is a meaningful catalyst each day and for all stakeholders.

The Corporate Affairs function remains well regarded as a protector and promotor of corporate reputation according to 44 percent of respondents. However, it remains underappreciated as a driver of overall organisational value, with half of respondents believing that its role is not seen as “strategic.”  The keys to changing this are foresight (the use of predictive data and trends) and continuous upskilling including visible upticks in the quality of new hires into the function.

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Notes to Editors

Following the inaugural 2020 Oxford-GlobeScan Global Corporate Affairs Survey, this online survey was conducted between February 25th and March 29th of 2021 and the data collected provides a view of evolving sentiment during the last year. Over 3,200 Corporate Affairs, Corporate Communications, and related practitioners were invited to participate in the survey.

Despite several other surveys targeting the same set of respondents, 228 Corporate Affairs practitioners took an average of 20 minutes to complete the survey. The realised sample is highly representative of the broader Corporate Affairs function globally. Participants from 38 countries and all main sectors completed the survey.


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About the Oxford-GlobeScan Global Corporate Affairs Partnership

The University of Oxford and GlobeScan formalised a partnership in 2019 to deliver enhanced insight into the roles, responsibilities, challenges, opportunities, and themes facing leading global Corporate Affairs professionals around the world. The primary purpose of the partnership is to generate valuable research findings for organisations, senior executives, and Corporate Affairs leaders through a regular “pulse” of novel, timely, and data-driven insights about the evolution of the Corporate Affairs agenda.

More information is available here.


About Saïd Business School, University of Oxford

In 2011, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, created the Corporate Affairs Academy, a research-led programme for leading global Corporate Affairs professionals interested in developing greater insights and shared best practice. Seated within the Oxford University Centre for Corporate Reputation, this invitation-only annual academy programme focuses on reputation thinking and engagement combined with functional and professional development and has hosted over 120 leading professionals from Asia, Australasia, China, Russia, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Scandinavia, and the Americas.

Each year the Academy publishes a summary of its discussions in a white paper, copies of which are available through the Corporate Affairs Academy website.

More information is available here.

Social and Environmental Values Increasingly Drive Consumers’ Choices, According to New Research

Nearly nine in ten people who recognise the Fairtrade label trust it, compared with much lower trust in companies’ self-reported sustainability performance

People are paying more attention than ever to the conditions behind the products they buy as a way to make a difference in the world, according to new research findings released by GlobeScan and Fairtrade International today.

Conducted by GlobeScan in 15 countries and reaching more than 15,000 people, the consumer survey points to everyday shopping choices as an increasingly important way for people to express their values, with the Fairtrade sustainability label serving as a clear signal of trustworthiness.

Visibility of ethical and environmental labels remains high, with 76 percent of respondents saying that they’ve seen these types of labels. Fairtrade is the most recognized and trusted label – nearly seven in ten people have seen it, and of these, nearly nine in ten of them trust the label. Public opinion research conducted by GlobeScan in 2020 shows that only around half of respondents say they trust companies’ communications about their own social and environmental performance.

This is borne out by GlobeScan’s public opinion research showing that fair wages, fair employee treatment, and protecting the environment are among consumers’ top expectations of companies. Overall, GlobeScan has seen significant increases in the public’s expectations of companies to act responsibly, with attitudes intensifying during the COVID-19 pandemic. More than half of respondents say they have changed their purchasing choices within the past year to make a difference on an economic, social, environmental, or political issue, even more than those who voted or donated money – indicating that people increasingly see their everyday shopping as an important way to make a difference.

In the Fairtrade-GlobeScan consumer research study, more than seven in ten feel that by buying Fairtrade, they are standing together with the farmers and producers who grow our food. Nearly seven in ten feel that they are part of a community standing up for fairness and justice when they buy Fairtrade. And the label has a halo effect on brands, with 78 percent of those who have seen the Mark saying it has a positive impact on the brands that carry it.

Demographically, younger people (aged 18–34) are more likely than older generations to recognize ethical and environmental labels, at around 85 percent, according to the Fairtrade-GlobeScan consumer research survey. This group is also slightly more likely to report buying one or more Fairtrade products per month than their older counterparts.

“Around the world, consumers are increasingly acting on their values and displaying an openness to paying a little more for products that are ethically and sustainably produced, especially when it comes to tackling poverty and unjust labour conditions,” said Dr. Nyagoy Nyong’o, Fairtrade International’s Global CEO.

“At the same time, Fairtrade farmers and workers are doing their part, for instance by improving farming methods, adapting to climate change, and expanding positive opportunities for women and young people,” Dr. Nyong’o added. “That’s why everyone who chooses Fairtrade is making a commitment to join with farmers and workers to create the fairer, more sustainable world that we all want.”

The latest research was shared as part of Fairtrade International’s General Assembly, taking place this week in Nairobi. This annual meeting brings together equal representation of Fairtrade producers and national organizations to decide on membership issues, approve the annual accounts, and ratify new board members.

“GlobeScan has been tracking ethical consumer trends for more than 20 years and we have recently seen significant increases in people wanting to make more socially and environmentally responsible shopping choices. But we know that behaviour lags attitudes, so ethical labels like Fairtrade can be valuable trusted guides for busy shoppers,” said Caroline Holme, Senior Director at GlobeScan.


Related Content: How to Market a Sustainable Product Online

Rose Price, Buying Director at Ocado, and Caroline Holme, Senior Director at GlobeScan, sat down to give their best tips in a Fairtrade webinar earlier this year. In this Fairtrade blog post, they have crystallised their wisdom into top tips to help you sell authentically and successfully online.


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Notes for the editor

The 2021 Fairtrade-GlobeScan consumer research was conducted in February and March 2021 in 15 countries with a sample of 15,418 respondents. The countries are Australia, Belgium, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Spain/Iberia, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and USA.

The 2020 GlobeScan research is from the GlobeScan Radar, a survey of 27,000 people in the general public in June 2020.


About Fairtrade International

Fairtrade changes the way trade works through better prices, decent working conditions, and a fairer deal for farmers and workers in developing countries.

Fairtrade International is an independent non-profit organization representing 1.7 million small-scale farmers and workers worldwide. It owns the FAIRTRADE Mark, a registered trademark of Fairtrade that appears on more than 30,000 products. Beyond certification, Fairtrade International and its member organizations empower producers, partner with businesses, engage consumers, and advocate for a fair and sustainable future. Find out more at http://www.fairtrade.net.

Consumption of Wildlife Drops Almost 30% Over Perceived Links to Pandemics Like COVID-19

WWF survey also finds overwhelming public support for action on key drivers of pandemics and nature loss’

24 May 2021 – As the World Health Assembly opens today against a backdrop of continued suffering caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 30% of people surveyed across China, Myanmar, Thailand, Viet Nam and the United States say they have consumed less or stopped consuming wildlife altogether because of the health crisis.

More specifically, 28% among those surveyed in China consume less wildlife or have stopped consuming wildlife because of COVID-19, with numbers nearly doubling in Thailand (21% in 2020 to 41% in 2021) and remaining stable in Viet Nam (41% in 2020 to 39% in 2021). There remains a committed contingent of wildlife consumers, however, with 9% of participants intent on buying wildlife products in the future in all five countries.

The figures come as part of a survey conducted for WWF by GlobeScan and published today in a new report titled, COVID-19: One Year Later:  Public Perceptions about Pandemics and their Links to Nature’. It builds on an initial study a year ago to deepen understanding of public attitudes and behaviours about addressing future pandemics. With the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recent investigation pointing to wildlife as a likely source of the pandemic, this year’s survey discovered that support is strong in all five countries to back government efforts to close high-risk markets selling wildlife (85%) and stop deforestation (88%), as root drivers of zoonotic disease outbreaks.

More than a year after the COVID-19 outbreak, the data shows that there is a strong understanding that risky human-animal interaction, often connected to deforestation and high-risk wildlife trade, can lead to serious disease outbreaks, with 46% of all participants listing disease transmission from animals to humans as the root cause most likely to trigger future pandemics.

The majority of those surveyed believe that preventing future pandemics begins with addressing root causes, including high-risk wildlife trade and deforestation. More than four out of five people surveyed support government action to tackle these threats, and in the event where no measures are taken to close high-risk wildlife markets, 79% of all the participants in the five countries say they would be extremely worried or very worried about a similar outbreak.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the impacts of human activity on nature tragically close to our homes and families, and people are increasingly concerned and urging action: addressing the key drivers of zoonotic disease outbreaks and taking a One Health approach has to be part of our collective global pandemic prevention strategy,” said Marco Lambertini, Director General, WWF International. “The only way to prevent future pandemics is by reducing destructive human activities that drive the loss of nature – such as deforestation, unsustainable wildlife trade and risky wildlife consumption – rather than reacting to outbreaks after they have emerged. Prevention of pandemics is estimated to cost 100 times less than responding to them. The pandemic has made it blatantly clear that investing in planetary health and nature is the only way to avoid paying such a terrible social and economic price again in the future with scientists being very clear that unless we rebalance our relationship with nature, the question would be ‘when’ a next pandemic will strike, not ‘if’.”

Key drivers of zoonotic disease outbreaks include wildlife farming, land-use change leading to deforestation, and high-risk wildlife trade, which can all facilitate easier spread of diseases like COVID-19, SARS, MERS and Ebola by putting wild animals in closer proximity to people and domestic animals.

The Chinese government announced a broad ban on the consumption of wild animals in February 2020, and the survey found that in China, closing high-risk wildlife markets is seen as the most effective measure to prevent pandemics (91%). In Viet Nam, where the Prime Minister also announced actions against the illegal wildlife trade last year, 84% of participants agree that closing high-risk wildlife markets is crucial.

WWF’s Preventing Future Pandemics advocacy action calls on government entities to adopt a One Health approach to high-risk wildlife trade and deforestation.

The conservation organisation is also calling on decision makers to include interventions needed to address key drivers of zoonotic disease outbreaks in their pandemic prevention plans. Halting deforestation and closing risky wildlife markets, for example, will help recover wildlife populations and maintain local and global biodiversity that naturally help regulate disease, as well as help ensure sustainable use of natural resources.

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Launch Webinar

On 27 May 2021, we hosted the launch webinar with the following panelists who shared their valuable insight:

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About the GlobeScan survey

This online survey of those aged 18+ was conducted in five countries between February 4th and March 18th, 2021. This timing was chosen to coincide with the 2020 survey, which was conducted between March 6th and 11th, 2020. Sample sizes: US (2,000), China (2,000), Viet Nam (1,000), Thailand (1,000) and Myanmar (631). Because of political unrest in Myanmar, research in this country was cut short.

About One Health

When the “One Health” approach was explained to participants in the GlobeScan survey, 85% said they strongly support or support such an approach to combating pandemics.

One Health’ is defined by WHO as an approach to designing and implementing programmes, policies, legislation and research in which multiple sectors communicate and work together to achieve better public health outcomes. It brings together the expertise across public health, animal health, plant health and the environment. It is endorsed by multiple international and national organizations including World Health Organization (WHO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations System Influenza Coordination, the World Bank, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and others.

About WWF

WWF is an independent conservation organisation, with over 35 million supporters and a global network active through local leadership in nearly 100 countries. Our mission is to stop the degradation of the planet’s natural environment and to build a future in which people live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world’s biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption. Visit www.panda.org/news for the latest news and media resources, and follow us on Twitter @WWF_media

Member States Biggest Barrier to Green Deal Implementation, Say 1 Out of 3 Sustainability Experts

A new report by the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) and GlobeScan identifies the challenges to the European Green Deal’s implementation and provides policy recommendations for addressing them.

The European Green Deal Barometer, launched on Thursday 29 April at an online conference, builds on the Think2030 survey, an expert consultation of nearly 300 sustainability experts from governments and regulators, NGOs, academia, research institutes and the private sector.

Key findings

  • 33% of respondents see the lack of commitment by the Member States as the biggest barrier to the Green Deal implementation, followed by inadequate governance mechanisms (25% of respondents) and unequal progress across the EU Member States (24% of respondents).
  • 38% of respondents see promoting low-carbon, circular supply chains in key emitting sectors as the most positive opportunity provided by the Green Deal, followed by increased investment and accountability from the private sector in the green transition (28% of respondents).
  • 37% of respondents see the greatest amount of progress made in ‘increasing the EU’s climate ambition for 2030 and 2050’, followed by ‘supplying clean, affordable, and secure energy’ (24% of respondents).
  • Only 13% say that adequate progress has been made on preserving and restoring biodiversity; and 14% on sustainable and healthy agriculture.

Top three policy recommendations:

  • Ensure that the award and use of EU recovery funds are focused on low-carbon and environmental projects.
  • Mainstream a circular economy approach in the EU industrial strategy.
  • Align the post 2020 Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform with the ‘farm to fork’ strategy and boost investment in nature based solutions.

Céline Charveriat, Executive Director of IEEP and the main author of the report, said:

“Member States are the cornerstone of the Green Deal implementation. If we are to act in line with science and remain within the planetary boundaries, they have no other choice but to be ambitious and implement the Deal. It is also important to bear in mind the indivisibility of the Green Deal. While it is encouraging to see progress on supplying clean, affordable and secure energy for all, science remains unequivocal — it will be impossible to reach carbon neutrality by 2050 if sectors like agriculture are not stepping up their efforts. Sixteen months after its announcement, the message from sustainability experts is clear: the European Green Deal is here to stay, in spite of the pandemic and beyond the mandate of the current European Commission. However, European governments must urgently raise their game, starting with greener recovery plans, while the European Commission has to focus in 2021 on the Achilles heels of the Green Deal — biodiversity and agriculture.”

Caroline Holme, Senior Director at GlobeScan, said:

“Our survey, conducted with IEEP and a host of other partners, is a valuable benchmark of stakeholder views on the European Green Deal. Nearly half of experts think the pandemic has accelerated the green transition, with greatest progress made on increasing the EU’s climate ambitions. We plan to track perceptions of progress and potential across different European Green Deal proposals to help identify where to focus efforts for the green transition.”

About the Think2030 survey

The European Green Deal Barometer report builds on the Think2030 survey, an expert consultation of nearly 300 sustainability experts (including governments and regulators, NGOs, academia, research institutes and the private sector) on the progress made in implementing the European Green Deal, and on the top issues and priorities.

The survey was launched as a follow-up to the Think2030 conference held in November 2020 by the Ecologic Institute, the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) and TMG – Think Tank for Sustainability. IEEP launched the survey in partnership with GlobeScan, the European Environment Agency, AER, EEAC, CAN Europe, Ecologic Institute, CISL, WWF EPO and Climate Alliance.

This survey asked 300 European sustainability experts what they consider to be the greatest challenges and opportunities on the path towards a successful implementation of the European Green Deal.

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Launch Webinar

The Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) and GlobeScan organised an event to mark the launch of the European Green Deal Barometer report.

Following a presentation of the findings by Céline Charveriat, Eecutive Director of IEEP, and Caroline Holme, Director at GlobeScan, an interactive panel discussion featured Diederik Samsom, Head of Cabinet to the Executive Vice-President of the European Commission, and Dr. Hans Bruyninckx, Executive Director of the European Environment Agency (EEA).

Watch the full event recording below:

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About The Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP)

The Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) is a sustainability think tank with offices in London and Brussels. Working with stakeholders across EU institutions, international bodies, academia, civil society and industry, our team of economists, scientists and lawyers produce evidence based research and policy insight.

Our work spans nine research areas and covers both short term policy issues and long term strategic studies. As a not-for-profit organisation with over 40 years of experience, we are committed to advancing impact driven sustainability policy across the EU and the world. For more information about IEEP, visit www.ieep.eu or follow us on Twitter @IEEP_eu and LinkedIn.

About Think2030

Launched by IEEP and its partners in 2018, Think2030 is an evidence based, non partisan platform of leading policy experts from European think tanks, civil society, the private sector and local authorities.

By focusing on producing relevant, timely and concrete policy recommendations, Think2030’s key objective is to identify science policy solutions for a more sustainable Europe.

Think2030 meets every two years for a high level conference to present and discuss the outcomes of the collaborative work, including policy briefs and reports. The 2020 edition took place online and was co organised by the Ecologic Institute, IEEP and the TMG Think Tank.

This publication has benefited from the financial support of the LIFE Programme of the European Union. It reflects only the views of its authors.

Demand for Elephant Ivory in China Drops to Lowest Level Since National Ban

Beijing, China – An annual consumer survey of the elephant ivory trade in China finds that demand for ivory continues to decrease since the country banned domestic trade in 2017 and is now less than half of pre-ban levels. Just 18 percent of consumers surveyed intend to purchase ivory in the future, a significant drop from 43 percent pre-ban.

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and research organization GlobeScan, have conducted the largest consumer survey about the elephant ivory trade in China—2,000 people in 15 cities—for four consecutive years. This annual survey is the largest assessment of changes in attitudes to ivory consumption, purchasing rates and intention to purchase, as well as awareness of the Chinese ivory ban over time.

WWF and GlobeScan’s fourth annual survey, Demand under the Ban – China Ivory Consumption Research 2020, found:

  • Consumers’ intention to purchase ivory in the future, both before and after being reminded about the ivory ban (19% and 8% respectively), continues to drop and is now less than half of pre-ban levels in 2017 (43%, 18%).
  • Self-reported purchase of ivory in the past 12 months decreased to the lowest level in 2020 since the study began in 2017, although gifting is reported to be the most popular reason that people buy ivory.
  • Although people’s awareness of the ivory ban in 2020 declined to the lowest level since 2017, 88 percent of those surveyed believed that the sale of ivory in China is illegal.
  • After remaining relatively stable at 14% of the surveyed population in 2018 and 2019, the proportion of the population defined as Diehard Buyers has decreased significantly to 8% in 2020, less than half of the pre-ban level in 2017, although the remaining “core” Diehard Buyers are even more firm in their resolve to purchase ivory. Among this group, the most compelling driver to purchase ivory is the perception of its artistic value.
  • Regular Overseas Travelers—those who travel outside of Mainland China more than once per year (trael was possible before the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020)— remain the only group to have increased their rate of purchasing ivory compared to 2017 levels, while having the highest level of both unprompted and prompted awareness of the ban in 2020. They also maintain their future intention to purchase ivory while most other groups’ intention have dropped steadily over years.

Although travel was greatly reduced in 2020 due to COVID-19 related restrictions, Chinese outbound travelers have continuously been identified as the group that most frequently purchased elephant ivory in the past and that has the strongest intention to buy ivory in the future compared with other groups. WWF works with the travel industry to target this key demographic with demand reduction efforts. Through the Sustainable Travel Alliance, which was established by WWF in 2020 and is endorsed by the leading travel agencies in China, WWF encourages corporate actors in the travel and tourism sector, including online and brick and mortar travel agencies and hotels, to reject the consumption of ivory and other illegal wildlife products.

“Chinese consumers have been one of the major drivers to the global ivory trade dynamics that contribute to an elephant poaching crisis across the African continent beginning around 2010, other drivers include loss of habitat and corruption in Africa and weak law enforcement in transit countries especially South East Asia,” said Zhou Fei, Chief Program Officer of WWF China. “The Chinese ivory ban is a game-changer that helps in turning the tide against the illegal ivory trade that claims thousands of elephants each year. Partners across many sectors, including China Customs, internet companies and the travel industry, have committed to a Zero Tolerance to Illegal Wildlife Trade Initiative and therefore bolstered consumer engagement efforts.”

Demand under the Ban – China Ivory Consumption Research 2020 also assessed the impact of a social media campaign which was launched in 2020. The targeted campaign, starring Chinese cultural celebrity Ma Weidu, reached 22 million people and received the highest recognition among Diehard Buyers and Regular Overseas Travelers. The survey found that the combination of information on the ivory ban and the campaign video had a strong deterrent effect on people’s intention to buy ivory in the future, changing the attitudes of 74% of those who had reported that they wanted to purchase ivory in the future.

“This research is another encouraging sign that China’s elephant ivory trade ban is being implemented and enforced effectively,” said Karen Xue, Global Director for WWF’s Ivory High Impact Initiative. “We have seen wholesale prices for ivory fall globally since 2017 and several subpopulations of savanna elephants in Africa rebound. However, we must consider the recent reclassification from the International Union of the Conservation of Nature deeming African savanna elephants and forest elephants as Endangered and Critically Endangered respectively and realize how critical a role consumer engagement and education has to play in curbing demand for ivory and reversing declining African elephant population trends.”

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Note to editors:

  • This study, conducted by GlobeScan, an international research consultancy, is the largest and longest-running research on China’s ivory consumption, involving a total of more than 8,000 consumers in 15 cities across China in four years. This is the fourth annual survey conducted since 2017. (see previous year’s reports here)
  • Implementation of this project was made possible with funding from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

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Webinar

On our April 22 launch webinar, we presented and discussed why consumers buy ivory, where, what do they buy, how and which campaigns work best to change ivory consumption behavior. In this fourth study, we were particularly focused on the trends and progress over the past years.

The webinar was opened by WWF, followed by an in-depth presentation from GlobeScan to introduce background, methodology and findings of the research, with a Q&A session afterwards with guest panelists.

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Purpose-driven Brands and Civil Society Join Forces with GlobeScan to Help Consumers Live More Healthy and Sustainable Lives

April 15th, 2021: GlobeScan is once again joining forces with a range of committed partners – Akatu Institute, NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business, CVS Health, IKEA, Levi Strauss & Co., PepsiCo, Reckitt, Visa, and WWF International – to conduct our annual Healthy & Sustainable Living global consumer research study.

Building on the insights from the 2019 and 2020 studies, this year’s research across 30 markets will help identify opportunities to close the gap between peoples’ desire to live more sustainably and to what extent brands and civil society can help them to do so.

Key insights from 2020 include:

  • Healthy and sustainable living must be affordable. The number one action that people want companies and brands to take to enable healthier and more sustainable living is to make more affordable products and services that are better for both people and the environment.
  • People are unlikely to embrace change if they think it is difficult. When trying to be healthier and more sustainable, the easier something is perceived to be, the more interested people are in changing that behavior.
  • Younger generations are far more interested in changing their behaviors and are more commonly subjected to social pressure to do so.

Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the lives of people across the globe. Our daily habits have changed dramatically in a very short time, but it is unknown whether new behavioral patterns will persist in the longer term.

Approximately 30,000 people across 30 markets will be surveyed in May 2021 to explore consumer motivations, needs, and expectations as well as opportunities for influential organizations to support healthier and more sustainable living. Initial results will be released globally in September 2021.

Helio Mattar, President and CEO at Akatu Institute said: “Many of the characteristics of the future consumer have become a reality much sooner due to the pandemic. It is wonderful for Akatu to be a partner in identifying the attributes of sustainability in companies, products, and brands that are valued by consumers as well as learning about the triggers and obstacles for the consumer to live a healthy and sustainable life. Those elements are absolutely crucial for companies who want to define their purpose, objectives and strategies in ways that are no longer nice to have but are necessities that our study will help identify as opportunities.”

Randi Kronthal-Sacco, Senior Scholar at the NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business said: “We, at the NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business, have seen an uptick in the purchases of sustainable fast-moving consumer goods, even during the pandemic. We are delighted to partner in this study to better understand the motivations behind this dynamic to help business and civil society drive additional change.”

Eileen Howard Boone, Senior Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility and Philanthropy and Chief Sustainability Officer of CVS Health said: “We know from our own research that our customers, colleagues, and business partners share our commitment to sustainability and understand the connection to health. This work with GlobeScan and other partners is critical to helping us learn more about people’s evolving needs and interests in this area and to help us accelerate our work across our key CSR priorities.”

Chris Coulter, CEO at GlobeScan said: “Engaging consumers and citizens worldwide on healthy and sustainable living is hugely important to help create the future we all want. I am delighted to have such a wonderful and growing set of partners for this third annual study which is very inspiring. It is my hope that together we will make an even greater contribution to this critical topic.”

Lena Pripp-Kovac, Chief Sustainability Officer at Inter IKEA Group said: “We want to understand what people value the most as societies are slowly opening up after more than one year of lockdowns and physical distance. It’s important for us to keep listening to the needs and dreams of the many people so that we can better support with more sustainable and affordable solutions.

Jeffrey Hogue, Chief Sustainability Officer at Levi Strauss & Co. said: “Post-pandemic, it is clear that consumer intent and behavior are beginning to accelerate toward more sustainable consumption patterns and increased acceptance of alternative business models like rental and recommerce. For Levi Strauss & Co. and the industry at large, it will become increasingly important to follow and respond to the evolution in consumer trends and behaviors in this space.”

Jim Andrew, Chief Sustainability Officer at PepsiCo said: “PepsiCo knows that consumers value brands and products that are better for them and also better for the planet. We are partnering on this global study to be able to identify and understand additional opportunities to engage consumers as we work to build a more sustainable food system.”

Miguel Veiga-Pestana, SVP Corporate Affairs & Sustainability at Reckitt said: “Listening to and engaging with consumers around the world is essential if we are to meet the challenges society faces for a more sustainable future and to deliver on the SDGs. I’m proud to be part of this study and know the insights it brings will help us enable a cleaner, healthier world.”

Douglas Sabo, Chief Sustainability Officer at Visa Inc. said: “Visa is committed to inspiring and empowering the sustainable living movement for everyone, everywhere. As the world goes increasingly digital, the power of insights identified through the GlobeScan study will help inform our efforts – together with those of our clients and partners – as to what’s needed to make progress during this transition to sustainable living and a low-carbon economy.”

Cristianne Close, Global Leader Markets Practice at WWF said: “COVID-19 is our wake-up call. The risk of future pandemics will only increase unless we fix our broken relationship with nature. To build back better, we must finally recognize that our well-being and prosperity depend on nature and healthy natural systems. That’s why WWF is pleased to support GlobeScan’s Healthy & Sustainable Living research once more. It will enable business and civil society to help consumers make better choices for people and planet. Together, we can shape a fairer, greener world.”

Survey sampling and data collection will be achieved using best-in-class online consumer panels in each of the 30 markets and optimized to represent consumers per the latest census data for those aged 18 years and up. The study will also pay close attention to the views of young adults to better understand the shifting needs and opportunities of Generation Z.

Participating markets include Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, France, Germany, Hong Kong SAR, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, Portugal, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Thailand, the UK, the USA, and Vietnam.


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New Survey of Experts Finds COVID-19 Pandemic Risks Slowing Progress Towards the Sustainable Development Goals

25 February 2021 – Five and a half years after the adoption of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs or the Goals) and their ambition to ensure a better and sustainable future for all, findings from a new report “Evaluating Progress on the SDGs” by GlobeScan and The SustainAbility Institute by ERM show that sustainability practitioners continue to report poor progress towards each of the 17 Goals. Additionally, over half of experts surveyed believe that the COVID-19 pandemic will further slow the rate of progress.


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Nearly 500 experienced sustainability professionals in 75 countries were asked to evaluate the progress that has been made on sustainable development overall and on each SDG, to rank the relative urgency of each Goal, and to share insights into the priorities within their own organizations. Experts were also asked how the COVID-19 pandemic will impact progress on the SDGs. The survey tracked expert opinions polled in 2017 and 2019. Key findings include the following:

  • Sustainability professionals continue to be critical about overall progress made on sustainable development. The proportion of experts who say progress on sustainable development has been poor has increased from 49 percent to 54 percent over the past two years, with European experts and those working in the Academic and Research sectors being the most negative about global progress.
  • When asked to rate society’s performance in having achieved progress toward each one of the SDGs, progress is rated as predominantly poor on every Goal. Progress on Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure (#9) and Partnership for the Goals (#17) are rated the most positively, while Reduced Inequalities (#10), Life on Land (#15), and Life Below Water (#14) are rated the most negatively.
  • Experts agree that Climate Action (#13) is the most urgent of the Sustainable Development Goals. When asked to pick the three Sustainable Development Goals that require the most urgent action, 61 percent chose Climate Action, followed by Life on Land, Reduced Inequalities, and Sustainable Production and Consumption (#12) (each mentioned by 22 percent of respondents).
  • Climate Action continues to be the SDG receiving the most attention within respondents’ own organizations. Climate change is a focus area for sustainability professionals across almost all regions and sectors. Responsible Consumption and Production and Quality Education (#4) are also priorities. However, other relatively urgent Goals, including Reduced Inequalities and Life on Land, receive relatively little attention.
  • More than half of experts say the COVID-19 pandemic will slow progress on the SDGs. When asked how the current pandemic and its economic impacts will affect society’s progress toward achieving the Goals over the coming decade, as many as 54 percent believe that the outbreak will impede advancement. Thirty-six percent instead say it will accelerate positive change, while only one in ten say it will not make any difference.

As in 2017 and 2019, experts continue to agree that society’s progress on sustainable development broadly and the SDGs specifically has been inadequate. The proportion of stakeholders who believe progress on sustainable development is poor has returned to the same level recorded in our 2017 survey, reversing the slight improvement in this trend that was observed in 2019. Life Below Water, Reduced Inequalities, Life on Land, and No Poverty (#1) continue to be singled out by experts as the SDGs where society’s level of achievement has lagged most.

Evaluating Progress Towards the Sustainable Development Goals 2021 - chart1

Mark Lee, Director at The SustainAbility Institute by ERM said: “It is a great concern that experts continue to rate progress on the SDGs as poor overall and worse today than two years ago, and even more worrisome that they perceive the least progress on the Goals seen as most urgent: Climate Action, Life on Land, Reduced Inequalities, and Sustainable Production and Consumption. The Goals’ ambition and promise are still there, but society must accelerate efforts to deliver them.”

Chris Coulter, CEO at GlobeScan, said: “Experts have given the world a failing grade for progress on the SDGs. We need to take their assessment seriously if we are to truly make this the Decade of Action. It is especially extraordinary that 84% of stakeholders rate our collective performance as poor when it comes to reducing inequalities. We must do better.”

Evaluating Progress Towards the Sustainable Development Goals 2021 - chart2

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About The SustainAbility Institute by ERM

The purpose of the Institute is to define, accelerate, and scale sustainability performance by developing actionable insights for business. We provide an independent and authoritative voice to decode complexities. The Institute identifies innovative solutions to global sustainability challenges built on ERM’s experience, expertise, and commitment to transformational change. The Institute collaborates with the world’s leading organizations in ways that operationalize sustainability. We bring together sustainability practitioners with common issues and ambitions to share challenges, discuss current trends, and exchange information on emerging best practices. Learn more at sustainability.com

Our Material Consumption is Soaring, but Earth Cannot Afford Black Friday

Key Messages

  • Three-quarters of European consumers (76%) agree that we need to consume less to preserve the environment for future generations and most say that they would like to spend more time with family and friends (78%) or to spend more time in nature (74%) – activities that do not necessarily involve material consumption
  • For our consumption patterns to stay within planetary boundaries, each European would have to reduce by 80% the amount of natural resources they currently use for nutrition, housing, mobility, and leisure
  • To promote a truly sustainable consumption, European policies must go well beyond green labelling and ensure that all products and services are safe for the consumers – and the planet. The focus should be on raising consumers’ awareness regarding the impacts of overconsumption and enabling them to engage in more sustainable lifestyles
  • The regulation of advertising could help curb overconsumption while promoting a more sustainable consumption of goods and services

The COVID-19 crisis has led to major changes in Europeans’ consumption habits. From the expansion of e-commerce and the predicted increase in car sales to the soaring consumption of coffee and hair colouring products – few, if any, sectors will remain the same in a post-pandemic world.

But our planet’s resources are not infinite, and the way we consume them today – at a high rate and along a largely linear trajectory – is not sustainable. In the simplest terms, if everyone around the world consumed like Europeans, we would need three Earths’ worth of natural resources to maintain our way of life.

The EU has made strong steps towards addressing unsustainable consumption – including with the action plan on circular economy announced earlier this year. However, up to 60% of Europe’s environmental footprint linked to consumption occurs outside the EU’s borders, according to the European Environment Agency.

Concretely, for our consumption patterns to stay within planetary boundaries, each European would have to reduce by 80% the amount of natural resources they currently use for nutrition, housing, mobility, and leisure. If current models of consumption do not change, the amount of materials needed to meet customer demands could triple by 2050 compared to 2000. On a per capita-basis, Europeans consume 14 tonnes of raw material each year1, resulting in an “ecological footprint”2 of 4.3 global hectares (gha) per person in the EU, compared with the global biocapacity of 1.7 gha per person3.

This can be achieved through a combination of efficiency and sufficiency – efficiency to reduce the material footprint of everyday consumption, and sufficiency (i.e. reducing overall consumption) for those items whose footprint cannot be brought to an acceptable level by efficiency only – see the infographic on the right for some examples.

Unlocking a truly sustainable consumption

While reducing our overall consumption is necessary, much more needs to be done to encourage – and enable – people to spend more of their time and money on activities that do not involve material consumption.

At least 74% of Europeans want to engage in activities that do not necessarily involve material consumption

The study, conducted in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, found that three-quarters of EU citizens (76%) agree that we need to consume less to preserve the environment for future generations, but only around 53% say they would like to buy fewer things. A recent study by GlobeScan shows that a significant proportion of consumers in the EU would like to spend more time with family and friends (78%) or to spend more time in nature (74%). The French are particularly interested in spending more time with family and friends (80%), whereas Swedes (80%) and Germans (79%) are the keenest to spend more time in nature.

Enabling consumers

Policies, such as those in the European Green Deal, need to firstly enable consumers by providing them with access to alternative lifestyles. Such promotion of low-carbon nutrition, mobility, housing, and lifestyles would help tackle both the volume of consumption and its composition.

The policies also need to address sustainability and equity challenges linked with luxury consumption, since today, the world’s richest one per cent are responsible for more than twice as much carbon pollution as the poorest 3.1 billion people, and these deep inequalities are observed both between and within countries. In Europe, the level of material deprivation varies from 3% of the Swedish population to 47% of the Bulgarian population.

In Germany, the Ecologic Institute has co-developed a database of activities that can contribute to implementing the Sustainable Development Goal 12 on sustainable consumption and production patterns.

Once stay-at-home orders and lockdowns are eased, one example could entail creating urban and natural environments that allow people to spend recreation time on community-oriented participatory activities, like community musical and theatrical productions, or participation in sports teams and clubs.

76% of EU citizens agree that we need to consume less to preserve the environment for future generations

This in turn would lead to a decline in material consumption since phenomena such as Black Friday encourage the overconsumption of non-essential goods – from fast fashion to electrical appliances and electronic goods. These products represent 21% of the material footprint of European consumers, yet are the least essential part of our consumption, compared to housing, mobility, or nutrition. It is here that local public institutions can also play a key role in stimulating such activities, for instance, by granting free access to museums and monuments and engaging in promotional activities to raise awareness of the effects of overconsumption on the environment.

There are no EU-wide estimates on the quantity of consumer goods thrown away each year, but in France, the estimated value of consumer goods destroyed annually varies from €630 to €800 million; in Germany, it is as much as €7 billion.

Putting all the responsibility on consumers is far from the solution. European policies must go well beyond green labelling and ensure that all products and services are safe for the consumers – and the planet.

Regulation of advertising

The regulation of advertising could help curb overconsumption while promoting a more sustainable consumption of goods and services. Examples of such regulations already exist for the tobacco industry, but also in the new frameworks regarding marketing towards children. Proposals for other sectors are ample.

The New Weather Institute has called for a ban on advertising of sports utility vehicles due to the risk posed by the increasing sales of SUVs on achieving the UK climate goals. While an intense debate on the regulation of advertising is currently ongoing in France, four national chambers of commerce, representing thousands of companies from across sectors, have called for a ban on Black Friday.

Elsewhere, we have also seen the emergence of alternative actions to resist Black Friday, such as IKEA’s buy-back scheme. At the EU level, an occasion to start this debate might be created by the evaluation of the ‘New Legislative Framework for Products’ on a common framework for the marketing of products and the accreditation and CE marking provisions (REFIT). Another approach would be to challenge the marketing and advertising industry to make clear pledges as part of the climate pact.

Data centres account for around 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions – equivalent to all air traffic

Digitalisation, however, can also be used as an opportunity to address drivers of overconsumption and explore what eco-efficiency – and eco-sufficiency – means for the digital economy. Initiatives such as Nubo, a Belgian cooperative working for ethical online services and promoting digital sobriety, provide inspiration on how digitalisation and sufficiency can drive positive change. The COVID-19 crisis has led to major changes in our consumption habits, including increasing our digital consumption of products and services. Digital technologies emit 4% of all greenhouse gas emissions, and their energy consumption is increasing by 9% annually. Data centres account for around 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions – equivalent to all air traffic.

The recent study by GlobeScan found that fewer than one in five (19%) Europeans claim they need a lot of material possessions to be happy and a significant proportion of those surveyed said they would be interested in new approaches that reduce consumption, such as renting items like furniture or clothing (68%), buying used products (49%), or even sharing products with others (37%).

This shows that Europeans are willing to adopt more sustainable consumption habits. It is now up to the policymakers and the private sector to ensure that the more sustainable and safer products and activities are the easier alternatives.

This briefing was produced in collaboration between IEEP and GlobeScan.

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Notes

1. Measured as annual global material footprint, or raw material consumption (RMC); from Eurostat (2019). Material flow accounts statistics – material footprints. Retrieved 16 September 2020; URL

2. The biologically productive area required to provide space for food growing, fibre production, timber regeneration, absorption of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel burning, and accommodating built infrastructure (Global Footprint Network)

3. European Environment Agency (2020). Ecological footprint of European countries. Retrieved 21 September 2020; URL


About IEEP

The Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) is a sustainability think tank with offices in Brussels and London. As a not-for-profit research organisation with over 40 years of experience, we are committed to advancing evidence-based and impact-driven sustainability policy across the EU and the world.

Is Black Friday Dying? Consumers Say They Want to Spend Less This Holiday Season

New GlobeScan research found that 77% of consumers are interested in choosing products that last longer, and 53% said they were interested in buying fewer things, in general. But there remains a gap between intention and action.

“… the propensity to buy less stuff — or at least thinking more carefully before making purchases — could be here to stay. That is certainly what GlobeScan’s 2020 Healthy & Sustainable Living Study suggests. Carried out in June 2020, the survey looked at the attitudes of 27,000 people in 27 markets when it comes to leading healthier and more sustainable lifestyles.

It found that 77 percent of consumers are “extremely” or “very” interested in choosing products that last longer — something seen as being “very” or “somewhat” easy to do by most (63 percent) people. 53 percent of buyers said they were “extremely” or “very” interested in buying fewer things, in general.”

Read the full article on SustainableBrands.com

Rising Trust in Sustainability Reporting Around the World

Public opinion poll on social and environmental corporate performance 

Amsterdam/Toronto, 14 October 2020 – Research across 27 markets has found that trust in how companies communicate their sustainability performance has increased to a record 51% this year, with significant variations by country.

The survey from GlobeScan and GRI asked 1,000 people in each location to indicate whether they agree that companies are honest and truthful about their social and environmental performance. The level of trust is the highest since the survey began in 2003, when it was at 30%.

Perceptions in Asia are most favorable, with the highest levels of agreement found in Indonesia (81%), Vietnam (80%), and Thailand (79%). The USA, Australia, Canada and the featured EU member states are at the lower end of the ratings, varying from 44 percent in the USA to 31 percent in France.

While the public in European and North American countries continue to indicate lower levels of agreement  compared with the global average, a number of these countries have seen notable increases in perception compared to 2016, including Germany (33%, +16 pts), Spain (36%, +10 pts), Canada (38%, +8 pts), USA (44%, +5 pts) and UK (42%, +3 pts).

Peter Paul van de Wijs is Chief External Affairs Officer at GRI, which provides the world’s most widely used sustainability reporting standards. He said:

“It is encouraging that around the world the overall levels of trust in how companies communicate their sustainability impacts are increasing. This goes hand-in-hand with growing expectations from consumers regarding more and better reporting.

At the same time, finding the featured EU member states at the low end of the rankings strongly supports the case for the thorough revision of the European non-financial reporting directive, initiated in early 2020 by the European Commission.

Mandating the reporting of comprehensive, comparable and assured data – using globally accepted standards, such as provided by GRI – is needed if we want to maintain the momentum and progress further.”

Chris Coulter, CEO of GlobeScan, said:

“Over the course of twenty plus years of global polling, we have seen a sea change in expectations for corporate transparency. The findings from this year’s survey suggest that companies are learning how to deliver and are being recognized for their efforts. Systematic standards like GRI have more than helped. Accurate reporting has become foundational for any effective sustainability strategy.”


Rising Trust in Sustainability Reporting Around the World - chart1 - GRI-GlobeScan 2020


Rising Trust in Sustainability Reporting Around the World - chart2 - GRI-GlobeScan 2020


Rising Trust in Sustainability Reporting Around the World - chart3 - GRI-GlobeScan 2020


Notes to Editors

Among countries surveyed in both 2016 and 2020, the highest ratings are seen for Indonesia (81%, +2 pts), China (73%, -7 pts), and India (73%, +14 pts). The lowest levels are found in Russia (29%, -17 pts), Argentina (30%, no change) and Germany (33%, +16 pts).

A representative online survey took place in June 2020 with approximately 27,000 adults (1,000 in each of 27 countries). The global variations in levels of trust reflect a multitude of factors, including social and cultural, that contribute to how people form perceptions of corporate behavior.

The countries surveyed were Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States, and Vietnam.

GlobeScan is an insights and strategy consultancy, focused on helping clients build long-term trusting relationships with their stakeholders. Offering a suite of specialist research and advisory services, we partner with business, NGOs and governmental organizations to meet strategic objectives across reputation, sustainability and purpose.

Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is the independent, international organization that helps businesses and other organizations take responsibility for their impacts, by providing them with the global common language to report those impacts.

The GRI Standards are the world’s most widely used and comprehensive sustainability reporting standards, which are developed through a multi-stakeholder process and made available as a free public good.


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