Research will help prevent climate change - Tim Clover, Glow
By Tim Clover
Founder and CEO of online research platform Glow
Consider these results from the latest survey of Australian attitudes towards major social and environmental challenges. After the need to address COVID-19, Australian consumers cite climate change as their next most pressing personal priority, with 71% saying they’d rather buy from a business with a clear plan for reducing its environmental impact – a figure that rises to 82% among 18 to 24-year-olds.
Consumers are also keen to do their bit to reduce plastic waste:
- 41% say they’d pay more for a product with less plastic packaging – and to invest in companies with good environmental records
- 67% are more likely to invest in companies that address climate change
- 72% will invest in companies that are taking action on plastic waste
In the COVID era, it has become clear that we cannot rely solely on overstretched governments to shoulder the burden of climate action, and need to take greater individual responsibility for stemming the flow of global warming.
A catalyst for change
This month, in conjunction with several Australian businesses including Sensis and Who Gives a Crap, Glow will launch Catalyst – a world-first research program that aims to provide businesses with an accurate picture of real-time shifts in consumer sentiment towards important environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues.
The platform will provide Australian businesses with:
- Robust data on how consumers’ attitudes and priorities are changing in response to pressing issues
- What kinds of products and services may help them “buy better” for their families, their communities, and their future.
Reports have also emerged that BHP, the world’s largest listed mining group, is reviewing options for its oil business, including a trade sale. This is a major shift for the Australian behemoth, which has defended retaining the business for many years despite scepticism from more climate-conscious investors.
Consciences up, bonuses down
Despite a perennial annual focus on executive bonuses, Australia has seen a rapid rise in the number of Australian companies linking their executive bonuses to ESG measures. According to PwC, 80% of the ASX top 100 companies now have ESG metrics in their bonus calculations.
In 2020, just eight top 100 companies included climate measures in short-term executive bonus calculations.
“Companies must first design their ESG strategies and to identify quantifiable measures that can be applied to any targets that are set”, said Emma Grogan, PwC Partner of Professional Services.
Former Kevin Rudd advisor and Accenture MD Andrew Charlton has said the big four banks and Macquarie will be hampered by the poor quality of ESG data. He said it was unreasonable to expect banks to have insights into climate risks facing customers that customers themselves are not fully aware of.
“The poor quality of ESG data exists right across the economy, so it is very difficult for banks to assess ESG risks in their portfolios”, said Charlton.
Globally, of course, these issues are moving much faster. The issuance of ESG bonds looks set to hit $1 trillion for the first time this year – more than double the 2020 figure.
BlackRock stands up to companies not uplifting ESG
The world’s largest fund manager, BlackRock, has said it is prepared to vote against the management of companies that are not doing enough to deal with the risks of climate change.
Last year, it announced it would put climate change at the centre of its investment strategy and dump its holdings in thermal-coal companies. Just this year it has expanded its climate change focus to more than 1,000 carbon-intensive companies.
According to Bloomberg, global ESG assets are on track to exceed US$53 trillion by 2025, representing more than one-third of the US$140.5 trillion in projected total assets under management.
A perfect storm created by COVID-19 and the green recovery in the US, EU and China will likely reveal how ESG can help assess a new set of financial risks and harness capital markets.
Glow’s Catalyst programme aims to help businesses large and small make informed decisions on those environmental and social issues that consumers think require the most immediate attention. By digging into these issues, we’ll be able to understand what consumers want and why, stimulate conversations about these challenges, and help businesses make informed decisions and launch their own programs of action to create positive change.