Findings from a recent survey of sustainability professionals by GlobeScan and The SustainAbility Institute by ERM show that society’s progress on the SDGs is severely lacking, while at the same time Climate Action (Goal 13) is becoming increasingly urgent.

To solve the climate crisis, experts point to increasing renewable energy as the most effective approach that is also among the most viable solutions to implement at scale.

This year’s findings draw insights from more than 200 sustainability experts from over 40 countries. As world leaders gather in Egypt for COP27 to discuss how to reduce emissions while also helping poorer countries prepare for and deal with climate change, survey results indicate strong agreement among sustainability experts to focus on renewables. Experts also say a lack of political will is the largest barrier to a just transition that equitably distributes the costs and benefits of addressing climate change.

Key findings include:

  • Sustainability experts continue to rate society’s progress on the SDGs as mostly poor. Experts are most likely to say society’s advancement has been good on Partnerships for the Goals (20% good), while progress on Reduced Inequalities (78% poor), No Poverty (72% poor), and Life below Water (71% poor) is rated most negatively.

  • Climate Action (Goal 13) continues to be viewed by experts as the most urgent goal. When asked to select the three goals that require the most urgent action, almost two-thirds of experts (65%) choose Climate Action – up four points from 61 percent two years ago. Only 8 percent of experts say progress on Climate Action has been good, while 57 percent say it has been poor.

  • Experts say that increasing the development and generation of renewable energy is the most effective climate solution. Eight in ten experts (81%) believe that increasing renewable energy is an effective potential solution to address climate change, followed by sustainable agriculture and food system solutions (67%), reducing deforestation (67%), and circular business models (60%). 

  • Increasing renewable energy is also thought to be one of the most viable climate solutions. When asked how easy or difficult it will be to bring potential climate solutions to scale, experts cite activism by civil society and NGOs (62%), increasing renewable energy (57%), and subsidies, investments, and grants to promote low-carbon choices (53%) as the solutions that will be easiest to bring to scale.

  • Experts say lack of political will is the greatest obstacle to achieving a just transition in their countries. Almost half of experts (49%) mention the absence of political will as a barrier to a fair distribution of the costs and benefits of climate action where they live.

Mark Lee, Director of the SustainAbility Institute by ERM, said: “While the 2020s ‒ proclaimed by the UN as the Decade of Action ‒ are well underway, progress on sustainability-related issues has slowed significantly, hindered by the global pandemic, rising inflation, geopolitical tensions, and myriad other issues. As our report highlights, many effective solutions exist, but their adoption and new investments by the private and public sectors will need to accelerate exponentially if we are to keep the 2030 climate and sustainable development commitments within reach.”

Chris Coulter, CEO of GlobeScan said: “While we are well behind when it comes to critical milestones around the Paris Agreement and the SDGs, there is consensus that progress on the renewable energy agenda and building greater support for government action should be two areas of focus going forward. The shift to renewables is moving rapidly and will accelerate in the coming years. Building political will to ensure the transition is fair and equitable, however, needs even greater attention if we are to address both the climate and inequality crises facing the world.”

Read the survey report

Notes to editors

A total of 215 qualified sustainability experts completed the online questionnaire from September 27 to October 28, 2022. The survey was offered to respondents in Arabic, Chinese, French, Portuguese, and Spanish, in addition to English.

About the SustainAbility Institute by ERM

The SustainAbility Institute is ERM’s primary platform for thought leadership on sustainability. Its purpose is to define, accelerate, and scale sustainability performance by developing actionable insight for business. The Institute identifies innovative solutions to global sustainability challenges built on ERM’s experience, expertise, and commitment to transformational change.

As the largest global pure play sustainability consultancy, ERM partners with the world’s leading organizations to create innovative solutions to sustainability challenges and unlock commercial opportunities that meet the needs of today while preserving opportunity for future generations.

ERM’s diverse team of 7,500+ world-class experts in over 170 offices in 39 countries supports clients across the breadth of their organizations to operationalize sustainability. Through ERM’s deep technical expertise, clients are well positioned to address their environmental, health, safety, risk, and social issues. ERM calls this capability its “boots to boardroom” approach – a comprehensive service model that allows ERM to develop strategic and technical solutions that advance objectives on the ground or at the executive level.

About GlobeScan

GlobeScan is a global insights and advisory consultancy working at the intersection of brand purpose, sustainability, and trust. We partner with leading companies, NGOs, and governmental organizations to deliver insights that guide decision-making and build strategies that contribute to a sustainable and equitable future.

We combine over 30 years of data-driven insights with a global network of experts and the ability to engage any stakeholder or consumer. Our unique research programs and global capabilities help to know what’s new, what’s next, and what's needed. And our advisory services help turn that knowledge into smart, strategic decisions

Established in 1987, we have offices in Cape Town, Hong Kong, London, Mumbai, Paris, San Francisco, São Paulo, and Toronto. As a proudly independent, employee-owned company, we’re invested in the long-term success of our clients and society. GlobeScan is a Certified B Corp and a participant of the United Nations Global Compact.

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