LONDON – A Green Economy would have a more positive impact on major economic, social and environmental problems than today's economy, according to two new global surveys of consumers and thought leaders released today.
The polls, conducted by The Regeneration Roadmap in partnership with UNEP, surveyed 17,000 consumers across 17 countries and 1,600 sustainable development experts from business, civil society, government and academia from 117 countries.
Consumers worldwide say a Green Economy will be more effective than the traditional economy in improving nearly every challenge tested. Ratings are especially high for protecting the environment (70%), creating a better future for our children (68%), improving quality of life (61%) and addressing climate change (61%).
By a smaller margin, consumers also believe that a Green Economy will be more effective than today’s economy in creating high paying jobs (32%) and increasing even short-term economic growth (31%). The only area where consumers are more doubtful of the effectiveness of a Green Economy is when it comes to generating low-paying jobs, on which opinions are split.
Strikingly, emerging market consumers are particularly likely to reject the notion that environmental and economic prosperity are mutually exclusive. Consumers in lower GDP per capita countries tend to be more optimistic about the impact of a Green Economy on all areas, especially when it comes to improving quality of life (70%), increasing long-term economic growth (58%), reducing poverty (44%), and creating high-paying jobs (43%).
Reinforcing the resonance of the concept of a Green Economy, when sustainability thought leaders are asked the same survey question as consumers, they are even more likely (by approximately 20 points) than consumers to think that a Green Economy will yield positive outcomes across almost all challenges examined. The sharpest exception relates to fostering short-term economic growth, where experts are less likely than consumers to anticipate immediate results.
The poll results speak directly to the terms of debate leading up to the Rio+20 Summit later this month, as UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner comments: “The Green Economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication is one of the key, top themes for Rio+20. It is not an alternative pathway or a separate universe, but a way of realizing a sustainable century.”
“It is clear that a transformation towards a low carbon, resource efficient, job generating Green Economy is happening in many countries across the globe and this survey underlines public support for its aims and aspirations. The challenge for world leaders, cities, companies and civil society this June is to back the smart policies and creative investment flows that will fast-forward, scale-up and accelerate this positive change,” Steiner added.
Mark Lee, SustainAbility Executive Director, comments: “Sustainable consumption is a necessary element of a future sustainable economy and society. The strong alignment of consumer and expert stakeholder views on the value of a Green Economy provides hope that more consumers may be ready and willing to participate in the necessary transition.”
Chris Coulter, GlobeScan President, comments: “The degree to which people in developing countries believe that a Green Economy will lead to more and better jobs is remarkable. Old concerns about a tradeoff between environment and development do not seem to apply today.”
The findings come on the eve of the UN’s World Environment Day, celebrated annually on 5 June with Brazil acting as the ‘global’ host for 2012 under the theme Green Economy: Does it Include You?
Other survey highlights include:
TORONTO – As the debate over top earners’ pay continues, public dissatisfaction with income inequality remains high, according to new GlobeScan data from a 23-nation study released today, with fewer than half in most countries polled believing most rich people in their country deserve their wealth.
GlobeScan polled more than 12,000 adults across 23 countries about their attitudes towards economic inequality as part of the annual GlobeScan Radar global public opinion study on business and its role in society. In 12 countries over 50% of people said they did not believe that the rich deserved their wealth.
Seventeen of the countries were also asked for their attitudes towards economic inequality in a comparable 2008 study. This year’s findings reveal that only 43 per cent of people across the 17 countries surveyed in both years feel that most rich people in their country deserve their wealth. Almost half of those polled in both years (48%) disagree that rich people merit their wealth—a figure that has remained stable since 2008 (49%).
The figures show that public concern with the way wealth is divided remains almost as high as it was in the year of the Lehman Brothers collapse, when corporate practices—in the banking sector particularly—started coming in for intense scrutiny. They come in a week when new French president François Hollande has unveiled a new 75% tax on incomes above €1m, and when a prominent high earner, Barclays’ Bob Diamond, whose remuneration has been strongly criticised in the past, has been forced to resign.
In only six countries surveyed in 2012 did more than half feel that rich people deserve their wealth. The most likely nations in 2012 to feel that rich people in their country deserved their wealth were Australia (61% up from 53% 2008), Canada (58%, down from 61% in 2008) and the USA (up one point from 2008 at 58%). They contrast with much of GlobeScan’s recent polling, where Anglo-Saxon nations were among the developed countries where trust in business more generally was lower than in the developing world.
Attitudes in Europe were mixed, with 45% of Britons feeling the rich deserve their wealth, 31% of French and 35% of Germans.
Greece emerged as the country least likely to feel that its rich people deserved their wealth (with only nine per cent agreeing), but Russia (16%, down from 17%) Turkey (20%, up from 14%) and Spain (20%, up from 18%) were also profoundly sceptical.
Sam Mountford, GlobeScan’s Director of Global Insights, comments: “These figures show that citizens around the world remain far from convinced that the way wealth is divided in their country is fair. This underlying sense of economic inequity may well present a challenge to governments planning to cut and deregulate their way back to prosperity.”
A total of 12,234 adults were surveyed across Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, the UK, and the USA between December 6 2011 and February 17 2012. Interviews were conducted by GlobeScan and its global partners face to face or by telephone. In six of the 23 countries, the sample was limited to major urban areas. The margin of error per country ranges from +/- 2.9 to 4.9 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
American public support for the free market economy has dropped sharply in the past year, and is now lower than in China and Brazil, and equal to that in India. The GlobeScan Radar 2010 findings show that there has been a sharp fall in the number of Americans who think that the free market economy is the best economic system for the future. In 2002, four in five Americans (80%) saw the free market as the best economic system for the future—the highest level of support anywhere in the world. Support started to fall away in the following years and recovered slightly after the financial crisis in 2007/8, but has plummeted since 2009, falling 15 points in a year so that less than three in five (59%) now see free market capitalism as the best system for the future.
This finding was featured in The Economist.
Support for the free market as the best available economic system has slipped markedly in the UK over the past two years. This mirrors the sharp decline in support for free market economics recorded in the US last year—although it has since recovered a little there—and comes at a time when Occupy protestors have been camped in the City challenging the practices of the financial sector.
Nonetheless, it is still striking that this fall in support is happening when the UK has its first right-of-center government since 1997, which has vigorously defended the role of the City in British economic life and is pressing ahead with an ambitious programme of free-market reforms and cuts to public services.
In contrast, support for the free market economic system has strengthened over the past two years in India, where the economy has rebounded robustly following the global financial crisis.
The depletion of natural resources has emerged as the dominant environmental concern among citizens of the global North, according to the latest wave of GlobeScan's tracking survey of world environmental concerns, rating ahead of issues such as climate change and water shortages.
Environmental concern has been on a long-term upward trajectory, with majorities of the global public in countries tracked by GlobeScan rating a range of environmental challenges as “very serious,” despite a falling back of concern, particularly about the climate, in 2009.
The map above illustrates the degree to which regional dynamics and economic circumstances influence the perceived severity of environmental issues around the world. Water shortages are the dominant public concern in sub-Saharan Africa, air pollution and species loss in Latin America, and automobile emissions in rapidly urbanizing China. Climate change remains a second-tier environmental concern in most nations.
The continued pre-eminence of natural resource depletion, relative to other environmental challenges, as a concern in three key economies of the global North —the UK, the USA, and Germany—may reflect a convergence of environmental concern with economic worries, particularly about the possible impact of energy shortages in the future.
It also highlights the need for those seeking to raise public awareness of environmental issues to demonstrate the link between environmental degradation and people's own quality of life.
Citizens of some of the world's richest, most democratic nations are questioning whether their countries are really governed in accordance with the public will, according to the latest GlobeScan tracking.
In 2011, GlobeScan asked citizens to say whether they considered that their country was “governed by the will of the people.” With many of the countries also surveyed back in 2002, the findings show how perceptions have shifted over nearly a decade.
They reveal that there have been significant decreases in four of the world's biggest economies—Germany, Japan, the UK and the USA—in the proportions who believe that the will of the people governs their country. Proportions who believe this have fallen from 32% to 21% in Germany, 44% to 29% in the USA, 27% to 21% in the UK, and 15% to 4% in Japan—the lowest proportion in the survey.
Despite unrest about alleged vote-rigging in recent parliamentary elections, Russia is one of the few countries where the number of citizens satisfied with the government's responsiveness to public opinion has increased over the decade—still, fewer than one in five Russians (19%, up from 12%) believes that the country is governed by the will of the people.
With negative perceptions of public power more common in the world's major democracies than in China (where 47% believe the country is governed by the will of the people), it seems that elections in themselves may no longer be sufficient to create a strong sense of popular sovereignty.
Save the Children reported this week that the recent rise in global food prices was taking its toll on families across the developing world, and that half a billion children risk being born physically and mentally stunted over the next fifteen years if no concerted action is taken. GlobeScan's recent polling for Save the Children, as well as its regular global attitudes tracking, confirm the scale of the problem.
GlobeScan’s own annual tracking research reveals high levels of concerns about the rising cost of food and energy among citizens across the world, with proportions saying this issue is “very serious” particularly high in the Philippines and the Latin American countries surveyed. The rising cost of food and energy is also of relatively high concern in China and Russia; concern has grown significantly in China over the past two years as food prices have continued to rise rapidly in that market.
In many developing countries, the effects of rising food and energy prices are particularly felt among those who have not benefitted from economic growth that has frequently been concentrated to specific sections of society, often leaving behind low-income and low-educated groups. In a recent survey fielded by GlobeScan on behalf of Save the Children in India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, and Bangladesh—countries where half the world’s malnourished children live—large majorities in all countries polled say that the rising price of food has become their most pressing concern this year. Concern is most acute in Nigeria and Bangladesh, where people overwhelmingly feel that food price rises are the most pressing issue they face.
A third of parents surveyed revealed that their children complained they didn’t have enough to eat. Around one in six parents (16%) – and nearly one in three in Nigeria (30%) – say they have allowed their children to skip school to help pay for their family’s food. The charity warns that if no concerted action is taken, half a billion children will be physically and mentally stunted over the next 15 years.
The rise in global food prices over the last year is having a major effect on consumption habits in the global South, according to GlobeScan research on behalf of Save the Children, with many reporting that they have cut back on the amount of food they buy for their family.
The price of staple foods such as beans, wheat and other cereals increased substantially during 2011, following severe weather in some of the world's biggest food exporting countries, which damaged supplies. GlobeScan's findings reveal that majorities in Peru (56%) and Nigeria (54%) and substantial proportions in Bangladesh (49%), Pakistan (40%) and India (29%) say that they have reduced the amount of food they buy for their family as a result of rising prices.
The last time global food prices peaked, in 2008, food riots resulted in the Indian subcontinent, Africa and Latin America, and GlobeScan tracking found that the price of food and energy was a greater concern than the ongoing economic crisis.
GlobeScan's most recent tracking of consumer confidence around the world confirms that to talk about “global” economic sentiment is somewhat misleading.
The polarized picture we have noted in recent years continues, with consumers in the world's major industrialized economies remaining predominately downbeat, while those in some of the major emerging economies are more likely to feel positive about their financial situation.
Notably, despite increasing talk of an economic slowdown, Chinese consumers appear much more upbeat about their financial situation than they did in 2011. The situation in India is more balanced, although those who report that their financial situation is better than last year still outnumber those who feel worse off than a year ago.
The contrast with the G7 is stark. If the recent improvement in US unemployment figures is translating into less negative sentiment among consumers there, the same cannot be said in France or, particularly, the UK, where sentiment remains heavily negative. There is little sign that Western consumers are ready to be the motor of any sustained economic recovery.
The recent wave of foreign investment in Africa—much of it from China—has started to transform the employment situation and infrastructure in parts of the continent. According to The Economist, trade between China and Africa surpassed $120 billion in 2010, and it is claimed that China has given more loans to Africa over the past two years than the World Bank. Despite the controversy surrounding China’s new-found influence in the continent—with concern as to whether the benefits of the investment stay in Africa or are all repatriated to China—GlobeScan’s recent public attitudes poll for BBC World Service suggests that Africans themselves are much more relaxed about it than much of the rest of the world.
A narrow majority of those we polled across 22 countries at the end of last year saw foreign investment in Africa as a very or somewhat good thing for the continent, with around one in four holding the opposite view. However, the results indicate that some of the world’s major donor countries have misgivings. A majority of Germans (56%) and significant minorities of French (44%), Spaniards (40%), Britons and Americans (both 32%) think it is a bad thing.
In contrast, the four African countries in our sample all have very large majorities feeling that the foreign investment is a positive thing, with support highest in Nigeria (85%), but also very high in Kenya (75%), Ghana (72%), and Egypt (71%).