A survey of sustainability experts by the ERM Sustainability Institute and GlobeScan has found that passing more legislation or improving current laws that promote more sustainable markets is believed to be the most important action governments can take to advance the sustainability agenda.

Globescan / ERM Sustainability Institute Pulse Survey

The survey sampled the views of more than 250 sustainability experts globally in the run-up to COP28 in Dubai. One-quarter of respondents (24%) point to the need for more or improved legislation, while almost a fifth (18%) cite providing incentives for renewables as the top priority for governments.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents (64%) expect to see more government legislation in the next 12 months. The majority of corporate respondents (75%) anticipate more legislation in the months ahead, more than any other group.

The survey was conducted as companies prepare to align with new sustainability disclosure-related regulations including CSRD in Europe and the SEC’s pending Climate-related Disclosure Rule in the US. Despite this burst of regulatory action, government’s perceived performance has remained low over time, with just 7% of sustainability experts rating national governments as significant contributors on sustainable development.

Meanwhile, the private sector has improved its performance ratings over the last few years, with one-quarter of respondents (25%) rating its contribution toward progress on sustainable development highly.

NGOs continue to be seen as the strongest performers impacting progress on sustainable development (cited by 56% of respondents), followed by research/academic organizations (47%) and citizen-led mass social change movements (39%).

Mark Lee, Director of the ERM Sustainability Institute said: “It’s clear that sustainability experts across the globe expect governments to play a major role in the sustainability landscape.

“There are a number of ways in which governments can make an impact, from taxing carbon to providing incentives for renewables, but passing effective legislation is seen as the most important action governments can take.”

Chris Coulter, CEO of GlobeScan said: “Despite the recent burst of action from governments in implementing legislation over the past few years – COP15, disclosure and transparency laws, the Inflation Reduction Act, the EU Green Deal, etc. – experts continue to rate the sustainability performance of national governments abysmally.

“Rather than continuing to criticize government action or inaction, we collectively need to support stronger legislation and better government leadership to make progress in the sustainability agenda.”

Notes to editors

The GlobeScan / ERM Sustainability Institute Pulse Survey was conducted with the intention of diving deeper into the most relevant findings from the 2023 Leaders Survey, providing a more focused and detailed look at what is most important to sustainability experts across the globe.

It is part of the GlobeScan / ERM Sustainability Institute Survey of Experts Stakeholder Research Program. The largest and longest-running survey of its kind, it has tracked expert opinions on sustainable development leadership for more than 25 years. The research draws from bi-annual surveys of our global panel of experienced sustainability experts (including leaders in business, government, NGOs, and academia) on topics such as recognized leadership, climate change, biodiversity, inequality, the SDGs, and key emerging issues.

Respondents to the 2023 Leaders Survey indicate that government legislation and disclosure requirements are currently seen as the most important drivers in progressing the sustainability agenda.

A total of 272 qualified sustainability experts completed the online questionnaire from October 24 to November 13, 2023.

About the ERM Sustainability Institute

The ERM 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, creating innovative solutions to sustainability challenges and unlocking commercial opportunities that meet the needs of today while preserving opportunity for future generations. 

ERM’s diverse team of 8,000+ world-class experts in over 150 offices in 40 countries and territories combine strategic transformation and technical delivery to help clients operationalize sustainability at pace and scale. ERM calls this capability its “boots to boardroom” approach, a comprehensive service model that helps organizations to accelerate the integration of sustainability into their strategy and operations.

Learn more: www.sustainability.com

Meryl Hanlon
Head of PR and Brand Communications, ERM
+44 (0) 7385 971303

About GlobeScan

GlobeScan is a global insights and advisory consultancy working at the intersection of behavior change, 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.

Established in 1987, we have offices in Cape Town, Hong Kong, Hyderabad, London, Paris, San Francisco, São Paulo, Singapore, 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.

Learn more: www.globescan.com