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Insight of the Week: Stakeholders Predict Inequality as Biggest Outcome from the Pandemic; Much Less Pessimistic on Sustainability

Stakeholders Predict Inequality as Biggest Outcome from the Pandemic; Much Less Pessimistic on Sustainability

% of Sustainability Experts, Unprompted, Total Mentions, 2020–2021

Overall, experts are now more optimistic that the pandemic will not derail action on sustainable development. In 2020, almost half of sustainability professionals predicted a de-prioritization of the sustainability agenda over the coming decade as a result of the coronavirus. Now just one in four experts believe this will happen. Furthermore, a third of experts believe more attention will be given to the environment due to the pandemic.

However, COVID-19 is perceived to be exacerbating socio-economic challenges, with nearly four in ten experts believing that increasing poverty and inequality will be one of the most likely effects of the pandemic.

Data source: GlobeScan / SustainAbility Survey of 700 experts representing business, government, NGOs, and academia across 72 countries.

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New Global Survey Finds Covid-19 Is Intensifying Sustainable Development Challenges, But Leading Businesses Are Stepping Up Action

  • Four in ten sustainability experts believe the pandemic will increase poverty and inequality

  • Access to energy, food security, diversity, and discrimination are also increasing in urgency

  • One-third of experts believe COVID-19 will lead to more attention on the environment

  • Sustainable business models and strategy are the strongest drivers of recognized corporate leadership, overtaking target-setting and sustainability values/purpose

28 July 2021: New research from GlobeScan and the SustainAbility Institute by ERM finds that sustainability experts believe the global pandemic will help draw attention to environmental issues—but will also deepen socio-economic challenges such as poverty and inequality.

The GlobeScan / SustainAbility Leaders Survey has tracked global expert opinions on the evolution of the sustainability agenda since 1997. The 25th edition of this report has taken place against the unprecedented backdrop of the pandemic, with nearly 700 sustainability experts from over 70 countries reflecting on its implications for the sustainable development agenda.

Overall, experts are now more optimistic that the pandemic will not derail action on sustainable development. In 2020, almost half of sustainability professionals (49%) predicted a de-prioritization of the sustainability agenda over the coming decade as a result of the coronavirus; in 2021, just one in four experts (24%) believe this will happen. Furthermore, a third of experts believe more attention will be given to the environment due to the pandemic.

However, COVID-19 is perceived to be exacerbating socio-economic challenges, with nearly four in ten experts believing that increasing poverty and inequality will be one of the most likely effects of the pandemic. When asked to rank the most urgent sustainable development challenges, experts believe that climate change remains the most pressing issue, but issues such as access to energy, food security, diversity, and discrimination have increased the most in perceived urgency over the past year.

Within this context, Unilever and Patagonia rank first and second, respectively, as the companies most recognized by experts for their sustainability leadership, but the gap is narrowing among corporate leaders. Brazil’s Natura &Co has overtaken IKEA and Interface to break into the top three. Companies filling out the top 15 include IKEA, Interface, Danone, Microsoft, Nestlé, Tesla, Ørsted, Google, Kering, Schneider Electric, Suzano, and Walmart. In a signal that the hallmarks of leadership have shifted, sustainable business models and strategy is the strongest driver of recognized leadership, overtaking target-setting and articulating sustainability values or purpose.

Mark Lee, Director at the SustainAbility Institute by ERM, said: “What we’re seeing as a result of the pandemic is a triple-whammy of interconnected social, economic, and environmental challenges. None of these can be tackled in isolation, which requires organizations to have more comprehensive sustainability strategies integrated into their business and operating models. Leading businesses are showing the way as we enter the decade of action.”

Chris Coulter, CEO at GlobeScan commented: “Once again, this survey of sustainability experts and influencers across the world reinforces the urgency of the planetary challenges that we face from climate change to inequality and offers hope in comparison to last year that sustainability is being prioritized. The collective wisdom of this distinguished panel of experts needs to be heeded. We need to do more at scale to facilitate the transition to sustainable development at a far greater pace than we are currently doing.”


Leading Businesses Are Stepping Up Action in Sustanable Development


Leading Businesses Are Stepping Up Action in Sustanable Development

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About the SustainAbility Institute by ERM

The SustainAbility Institute by ERM is ERM’s primary platform for thought leadership on sustainability. The purpose of the Institute is to define, accelerate, and scale sustainability performance by developing actionable insight for business. We provide an independent and authoritative voice that helps decode complexities. The Institute identifies innovative solutions to global sustainability challenges built on ERM’s experience, expertise, and commitment to transformational change. For more information, visit www.SustainAbility.com

Insight of the Week: Corporate Action on Inequality Requires a Value Chain Approach

Corporate Action on Inequality Requires a Value Chain Approach

Building Corporate Leadership in Addressing Inequality, 2021​

According to in-depth interviews with key opinion formers, the inequality agenda stretches wide and deep across a company’s value chain.

To drive real equity at scale, these actions need to extend beyond the corporate workplace to the supply chain, communities, customers, external partners, and through public policy. Meaningful action on inequality requires a holistic approach across the value chain where no one is left out.

Taking a systemic approach to inequality in the value chain is one tangible way for the business community to address inequality around the world.

Data source: GlobeScan Building Corporate Leadership in Addressing Inequality Report, 2021.

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Insight of the Week: A Third of Sustainability Experts Identifying as Minorities Have Experienced Discrimination in Their Careers

A Third of Sustainability Experts Identifying as Minorities Have Experienced Discrimination in Their Careers

% of Respondents Identifying as Minority Group Who Have Experienced Discrimination in Sustainability (n=93), 2021​

Among sustainability professionals who identify as a member of a minority group,* more than one-third say discrimination has negatively affected their career in sustainability.

In a recent survey of 496 sustainability experts in 75 countries, only 12 percent say they are part of a minority racial or ethnic group, and even smaller proportions identify as religious minorities, LGBTQI+, or disabled, suggesting a lack of diversity in the sustainability field.

These findings are a call to action for the sustainability community to recommit to diversity, inclusivity and anti-discrimination.

Notes:

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Insight of the Week: A Third of Female Sustainability Professionals Have Experienced Discrimination in Their Careers

A Third of Female Sustainability Professionals Have Experienced Discrimination in Their Careers

% of Respondents Not Identifying as Male Who Have Experienced Discrimination in Sustainability (n=161), 2021​

In GlobeScan and The SustainAbility Institute by ERM‘s recent survey of 496 sustainability experts in 75 countries, only 39 percent identify as female, suggesting the sustainability field remains male-dominated overall.

The gender gap narrows to about 50-50 in corporate roles and among experts in North America. Around the world, newcomers to the profession are more likely to be women.

Of those who do not identify as a male,* more than one-third say discrimination has negatively affected their career in sustainability.

These findings show that the sustainability profession is not immune to the gender discrimination affecting other sectors and that there is a lot of work to do to combat gender discrimination in the field.

Notes:

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Report | State of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for Sustainability Professionals

In this report, we share findings based on responses to a number of diversity questions that we asked as part of a larger GlobeScan-SustainAbility Survey, Evaluating Progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which was published in February 2021 with our partners from The Sustainability Institute by ERM.

The intention was to explore the current state of diversity among the sustainability professionals who take our surveys, and to find out whether and how women and/or those belonging to one or more minority groups feel their careers have been affected by the way that they self-identify.

As the sample sizes presented here are relatively small, findings are indicative. Nevertheless, we believe they represent important insights into the current state of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) in the industry and suggest that there are significant issues that need to be resolved to enable the full potential of all sustainability professionals.

This report is based on responses from the 496 sustainability professionals from 75 countries who completed the SDG survey.

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Insight of the Week: Four Key Drivers of Inequality in the Coming Years

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.

Notes:

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Report | Building Corporate Leadership In Addressing Inequality

A GlobeScan Shared Research Program

Rising inequality is a defining challenge of our time. While inequality in itself stands as an underlying trend, in recent years it has reemerged as a social and political flash point across many countries. In particular, 2020 has seen a sharp increase in inequality throughout the world, with the COVID-19 pandemic’s devastating fallout affecting the most vulnerable, along with the growing demand for social justice marked by Black Lives Matter protests.

According to the latest GlobeScan-SustainAbility Survey of experts on progress made on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Goal #10, Reduced Inequalities, has seen the least progress, with 84 percent of stakeholders saying that progress on this Goal has been poor. When looking at the views of the general public, a majority of citizens around the world (55%) say dealing with challenges like inequality and climate should be a priority for building the post-COVID-19 economic recovery.

Soaring inequality has put additional pressure on companies, as they are seeing increased expectations on the part of citizens to find ways to foster a more equitable world. But how can businesses play their part in the most authentic and impactful ways?

About the Addressing Inequality Project

To help catalyze corporate action to address inequality, GlobeScan worked with 20 companies from various sectors, gathering insight, facilitating dialogue, and developing best practices to approaching inequality.

Through a series of interviews with Sustainability/CSR teams as well as Human Resources and Diversity & Inclusion teams, GlobeScan identified the biggest challenges and opportunities to address inequality in the workforce, supply chains, and wider society. GlobeScan also conducted in-depth interviews with inequality subject matter experts (from sectors including NGOs, investors, and multi-lateral organizations) to understand best practices in addressing inequality. With this insight, and in conjunction with its global public opinion research of sustainability leaders and consumers, we identified key expectations of business in the space, paving the way for effective action to tackle the challenge of inequality.

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Insight of the Week: Experts Rate Society’s Performance Poorly in Achieving the SDGs, Especially Goal #10

Experts Rate Society’s Performance Poorly in Achieving the SDGs, Especially Goal #10

Society’s Performance on the Sustainable Development Goals
% of Experts, 2021

Experts continue to rate progress on each individual SDG as mostly negative, with majorities rating progress as poor on ten of the 17 Goals.

Progress on Reduced Inequalities, Life on Land, and Life Below Water is rated especially negatively. The Goals with the most positive progress include Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure and Partnerships for the Goals.

This assessment by experts across the world suggests that we will have to increase our efforts if we are to achieve the SDGs by 2030. The so-called “Decade of Action” will require a different level of commitment from governments, business, and civil society.

Notes:

  • Question wording: How would you rate the progress made to date in the transition to sustainable development globally?
  • Data source: GlobeScan / SustainAbility Survey of over 500 experts representing business, government, NGOs and academia across 75 countries.

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Insight of the Week: One in Seven in Gen Z Have Protested to Make a Difference

One in Seven in Gen Z Have Protested to Make a Difference​

Protested Publicly to Make a Difference on Issues
By Generation, Average of 27 Countries, 2020

Issues engagement and demographics both suggest that we are increasingly moving into an age of activism, where younger generations are more likely to use their voices to affect change. Fifteen percent of those belonging to Gen Z say they have protested publicly at events and rallies in the past year to make a difference on an economic, environmental, social, or political issue that they care about. People in Africa and Latin America, both continents with relatively more youthful populations, are more likely to say they have attended a protest than those living in other regions.

Notes:

  • Question wording: In the past year, have you done any of the following to make a difference on an economic, environmental, social or political issue that you care about? Please select all that apply.
  • Data sourceGlobeScan Radar, our 27-country, 27,000-person public opinion study on views of business, government and NGOs, issues tracking, and shifting societal expectations.

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