Surveys of businesspeople on global warming show we've got a lot of work to do

Cai Steger, one of the great summer fellows working here at NRDC this year and quite possibly the first MBA fellow we've every had (how embarrassing is that?!?), tipped me off to the two surveys below.

According to a summary provide by Business Green Blog here, a survey of 50 large companies' annual sustainability reports by KPMG and UN-backed sustainable reporting group the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) found that the companies are looking at global warming almost purely as a business opportunity and not acknowledging that federal and international inaction also poses a significant risk to businesses. While the fact that businesses see an upside to addressing global warming should be encouraging to politicians considering supporting mandatory global warming pollution legislation, businesses need to realize that inaction poses a huge financial risk not just to their business model, but to the economy as a whole.

I take some comfort that the report also found "that the majority of firms reported a greenhouse gas emission reduction target and nearly half included a statement from their CEO or chairman highlighting how seriously they take climate change."

Another survey came out of Hill and Knowlton back in May (press release here) and was conducted among 420 senior business decision-makers (all were involved in IT purchases) from the US, the UK, China and Canada to uncover their perceptions on cleantech, global warming, etc.  

According to Cai's summary of the survey, only 32% of those surveyed “fully believe GHGs are causing global warming”.  Another 55% believe GHGs are “playing a role” but other factors are causing global warming as well.  

Basically one-third follow the issue of global warming “very closely” while another half follow it “somewhat closely”.  I view that as progress, I guess.   

Most alarmingly, though, more individuals (52%) believe that “improved corporate reputation” is a better measure of ROI in environmentally friendly business strategies than “carbon emissions reduced” (38%).  No, seriously.   And this survey was of business decision makers mind you, not communication pros.  Apparently, the message that investment in sustainability, energy efficiency and cleantech is a valuable and profitable business strategy has not gotten through yet.  There were smaller groups looking at business metrics such as IRR, ROE etc., but overall, it points to the valuable need for a universal, industry-recognized set of green business metrics.   

Bottom line, we’ve got a long way to go in the business community. Getting more MBA fellows such as Cai into environmental groups will certainly help, but we have to do more.