Public Concern About Climate Change is at its Highest Level Since 1998
Seriousness of Climate Change,“Very Serious,” Average of 17 Markets,* 1998–2021
Perceived seriousness of climate change has reached its highest level since tracking began 23 years ago, with over six in ten across 17 markets now saying that climate change is “very serious.” Global concern and engagement around climate issues is growing and is expected to increase over the next several years.
People in Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Portugal, and Turkey are the most concerned about climate change. In the USA, concern is historically high (53% say it is “very serious”) and has continued to increase since 2014.
This increased concern has implications for policy makers and business in the run-up to COP26.
Corporate Affairs Professionals Say Climate Change is the Most Pressing ESG Issue for Global Business
Specific ESG Issues as Most Pressing, Total Mentions, All Corporate Affairs Respondents (%), 2020–2021
ESG performance tops the list of Corporate Affairs risk priorities globally for organizations, and Corporate Affairs professionals surveyed across the world point to climate change as the most pressing ESG issue.
While climate change broadly is less top-of-mind since last year, there is a dramatic increase in concern around net zero and carbon emissions as a critical issue. This suggests that Corporate Affairs priorities are becoming more focused on net zero strategies.
The COP 26 meeting in Glasgow later this year will likely bring this into even sharper focus.
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 Surveyin 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.
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.
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.
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.
Four Key Drivers of Inequality in the Coming Years
Major Trends, 2021
Rising inequality is a defining challenge of our time and current approaches to addressing it are perceived to be highly insufficient.
A multi-stakeholder research project identified four mega-trends (health, future of work, social divisions, and climate change) both as drivers and as possible areas for solutions to respond to this complex challenge.
These wider cross-cutting trends provide a great starting point for identifying pathways to effective action in addressing inequality.
Question wording: How do you see expectations around inequality, health, future of work, social divisions, and climate change evolve in the coming years?
Circular Economy, Food Systems, and Biodiversity Are Key Focus Areas for the EU Green Deal
Priority vs Progress, Expert Stakeholders, 2021
Stakeholders rated a range of sustainability issues on two dimensions – level of priority and progress made. Two issues – clean energy and climate – are areas where priorities and progress are both viewed as being strong.
Circularity, food systems, and nature are all issues where priorities are high, but where progress is seen to be weak. These areas require more urgent action if the European Green Deal is to be realized, as each represents a fundamental role in the transition toward a more sustainable Europe.
Question wording: For each of the following possible global problems, please indicate if you see it as a very serious, somewhat serious, not very serious or not at all serious problem.
High Concern about Climate Change Persists During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Seriousness of Climate Change and Global Warming, “Very Serious,” Average of 17 Markets,* 2003–2020
Even with parallel worries about COVID-19 and the economy, environmental issues are still highly concerning for people around the world. Across 17 markets surveyed over the past two decades, a majority continue to think of a range of environmental issues as being “very serious.” Concern about climate change has grown dramatically since 2014 and continues to be at its highest point in 17 years of tracking (the other high point was in 2009 during the time of COP15 in Copenhagen).
These findings suggest that the pandemic has not weakened public expectations around climate and environment and that there are likely high expectations for significant commitments at COP26 in November of this year.
Question wording: For each of the following possible global problems, please indicate if you see it as a very serious, somewhat serious, not very serious or not at all serious problem.
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.
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.”
“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.
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).
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.
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.
Sustainability Experts Point to Climate Action as the Most Urgent of the Sustainable Development Goals
Most Urgent Goal, Total Mentions, All Respondents (%), 2019–2021
Sustainability experts continue to call out Climate Action as the SDG requiring the most urgent action, followed by Life on Land, Reduced Inequalities, and Responsible Consumption and Production. Reduced Inequalities, Quality Education, Zero Hunger, and Good Health have all increased in perceived urgency compared to 2019.
While the Global Goals are highly interrelated, it is clear in the lead-up to COP26 in Glasgow and with the ongoing focus on ESG that climate change remains one of the most critical sustainable development challenges.
Question wording: Which three Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) do you think require the most urgent action?
Next gen insights, strategies and real world brand examples from BBMG, GlobeScan, Dave’s Killer Bread, and General Mills
Our latest study finds people under age 30 are ready for a radical renewal of our economy and eager for bold brand leadership on issues from climate action to social justice. So how do we meet their needs? And what does leadership look like?
On 9 February 2021 we hosted a webinar exploring headlines from BBMG and GlobeScan’s global public opinion study, perspectives directly from young people, and case studies from guest sustainability and social impact experts from General Mills and Dave’s Killer Bread who are leading the way with regenerative strategies.
We were excited to be joined by the following speakers: