Source: Signal Environmental
It was a busy summer and some things, like this blog, just couldn't keep up. But that's not to say I didn't come across lots I'd like to look back at as I try to get back in the habit of posting again. Take the three polls I came across in early August (that's when I came across them, not necessarily when they were made public).
Back in June, Pembina Institute released a survey of 5,000 "thought leaders" (whatever the heck a thought leader is - I'm not sure that academics and government middle managers are leading many in their thinking these days). The survey was conducted by McAllister Opinion Research and was released in advance of the G8/G20 meetings in Huntsville and Toronto, respectively. Needless to say, with the uproar over fake lakes, $1 billion in security costs and riots in T.O., this survey sank without a trace.
In the words of the press release ......
"The federal government is out of step with leading thinkers on issues related to sustainability, energy and climate change, according to the results of a groundbreaking survey of more than 5,000 experts and government officials .... These results clearly illustrate that leaders within government, academia and the private sector understand the energy and sustainability challenges Canada faces, and have a high level of agreement on how best to tackle them .... What Canada still lacks is the political commitment to take sufficient action."
Whats most interesting for me is that 59% of the respondents work in government (and most are in Canada), suggesting a profound disconnect between the Harper government and its civil servants on energy policy, climate change and sustainability.
Shifting direction (but just a bit), Gibbs and Soell, a New York based public affairs firm released their 2010 Sense and Sustainability Study, looking at how 2,600 U.S. consumers and 300 Fortune 1000 executives view the corporate pursuit of sustainability. Scepticism is the key word Gibbs and Soell use to describe their own study.
Again in the words of the press release ...
Corporate America has embarked on its journey toward sustainability, but still draws public skepticism. Only 29% of executives and 16% of consumers believe that a majority of businesses (“most,” “almost all,” or “all”) are committed to “going green” – defined as “improving the health of the environment by implementing more sustainable business practices, and/or offering environmentally friendly products or services.” Many executives (54%) and consumers (48%) believe only “some” businesses are committed to “going green.”
However, I don't know if I would really define the response as sceptical. If anything, it may be incredibly optimistic for 29% of executives to believe that "most", "almost all" or "all" U.S. companies are going green. While the press release says that "Corporate America has embarked on its journey toward sustainability ...", as someone that makes a living helping companies down this particular road I would suggest that the majority of companies display the symptoms (e.g. publishing sustainability reports) but provide only tepid support beyond what the regulations require.
Finally, the last poll, conducted by Harris Poll for the Financial Times, looked at U.S. and European support for greater regulation of oil companies in the aftermath of the BP-Deepwater Horizon disaster. The poll, released August 12th, found that support for more regulation ranged from 73% of Britons to 91% of the French (U.S. respondents were in between with 77% of those spoken to favoring more regulatory constraints).
"The findings underline the challenge facing the industry after the accident on April 20 when the Macondo well ruptured, killing 11 workers and spewing 4.9m barrels of oil into the sea. Although the Obama Administration's moratorium on deep-water drilling in the gulf, imposed after the spill, should be lifted earlier than it's November 30th expiry date, the industry is already bracing itself for further regulation and higher costs"
So what does it all mean?
At a minimum, I would say there is a disconnect between industry claims to be "going green", becoming sustainable, etc. and the public that is on the receiving end of the message. It also shows what bad performance on the part of one or two companies can do to the whole sector, and even all industry. Looking at Canada and the Pembina/McAllister survey that disconnect extends to include a government and the thought leaders that are in many cases employed by it.
Its been a tough summer for corporate reputations in the energy sector so it would be interesting to look at similar polls again in six months.