Companies told to lead climate-change fight

Most consumers want companies to do more to protect the environment and reckon that firms should play a leading role in fighting global warming, a worldwide survey showed on Tuesday.

The poll, of 28 000 internet users in 51 nations by the Nielsen Company, showed that corporate commitment to green ethics is playing “an increasingly influential role in consumers’ purchasing behaviour”, Nielsen said.

The survey showed that 51% of respondents considered it “very important” for firms to improve the environment and another 36% “somewhat important”. Nielsen said it was the first worldwide poll of company ethics and corporate responsibility.

“A ‘global conscience’ is one of the biggest trends to have emerged in the last decade,” said Amilcar Perez, a vice-president of Nielsen in Latin America. The survey was carried out in May, before current financial turmoil.

It was unclear whether economic slowdown would undermine environmental concerns, said Timmons Roberts, a professor of Sociology at the College of William and Mary in Virginia involved in the poll.

“It’s hard to tell.
For some consumers who buy fair trade coffee, for instance, it may now part of their budget,” he said.

Consumer power
Asked how they would like to help social and environmental causes, 68% favoured buying greener goods with just 13% preferring to donate cash. It did not probe how far respondents might be willing to spend extra on greener goods.

“The results show that environmental issues are gaining traction,” said Max Boycoff, a researcher at Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute also involved in the survey.

“If organisations are looking to gain a foothold and reach out beyond the self-identified environmentalist, consumer behaviour could be a way forward,” he said.

Asked by Nielsen to name the biggest contributions society can make to combating climate change, 40% said governments should restrict companies’ emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants.

In second place, 38% favoured government-led research into low-emissions cars, houses and renewable energy. And 37% said people should recycle more waste. Respondents were allowed to pick more than one answer.

More than 190 governments have agreed to work out a new global warming treaty by the end of 2009 to curb emissions of greenhouse gases after warnings by the UN Climate Panel of ever more heatwaves, droughts, floods and rising seas. - Reuters

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