Environment top priority for EU business leaders

Brussels, Belgium (GLOBE-Net) – Europe’s top business executives think environmental protection should be the number-one priority for global political leaders, according to the 16th annual UPS Europe Business Monitor. The survey also reveals the main drivers for Corporate Responsibility initiatives by European companies.

Asked which issues should take top priority for political leaders, 45% of business executives said environmental protection, while 40% mentioned economic growth. Energy security came third on the list (33%), ranking alongside reducing world poverty (32%), reducing wars & global conflicts (31%), fighting terrorism (31%), and promoting education (29%). The 2007 Business Monitor is based on interviews with 1450 executives at the director level of Europe’s top companies.

The high endorsement for environmental protection comes as no surprise, as concern over climate change has brought the environment to the forefront in the worldwide media, and the European Union has traditionally taken leadership in this area.

However, asked which of the top priorities most divides the EU and the United States, an overwhelming 57% chose environmental protection, reflecting views of the divergent policies taken on climate change and other environmental issues.

When it comes to obtaining information about the global environment, the majority (56%) said their most trusted sources are university researchers or scientists. Sixteen percent chose the media, versus 13 percent for environmental groups, while only 4 percent said national governments were a reliable source of environmental information.

The concern for the environment and reliance on scientific information to understand issues such as climate change was reflected in responses to a question on “which energy source should Europe stake its future?”. Renewables, such as wind, solar, and hydrogen, topped the list for each country, with 57% overall saying renewables should be the energy sources of choice.

Nuclear energy produced domestically was considered the secondary option, receiving 32% support. Less than 5% of business executives said that Russian natural gas, middle eastern oil, or local fossil fuels should be chosen for the future.

In response to concerns over energy and the environment, it seems that the economic implications of energy use, slightly more so than the threat of climate change, have been the driving force behind the personal actions of many leaders. Seventy percent say they have reduced their energy use at home, while forty percent have bought a more fuel efficient car. Other actions include using public transport more often (32%), cutting back on driving (31%), reducing air travel (20%) and using renewable energy sources at home (13%).

Corporate Responsibility driven by image

Executives were also asked to define the biggest drivers for their firms’ Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities. Nearly half (49%) said improvement of brand reputation and corporate image, while 43% said CSR makes the company a more attractive place to work. Slightly less said the main reasons were to “give something positive back to the community (38%), and to comply with legislation and industry requirements (36%).

One-third said that CSR was undertaken to give the firm a competitive advantage, while one-fifth said it was in response to a general trend within the industry to undertake such activities. Only 6% said CSR was used to deflect criticism from the public, the media, or NGOs.

The reasons for CSR varied across countries however, as almost half of Italians cited competitive advantage as a main driver, compared to only one-fifth of those in Spain.

The full UPS Europe Business Monitor can be viewed here.

You can return to the main Market News page, or press the Back button on your browser.