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US Consumers Doubt Their Ability to Impact Climate Change, Look to Companies to Lead

The majority of US citizens (62 percent) say they believe climate change is a problem but feel unempowered to address it, according to the 2018 Cone/Porter Novelli Climate Change Snapshot — instead, they are looking to companies to take the lead.

Yet, even as individuals may feel personally powerless — less than four-in-10 (38 percent) feel their actions can make a real difference — they do see companies as critical players in progress against climate change. 58 percent say that in the absence of government progress, companies should take the lead.

When it comes to how companies should address climate change, many Americans believe companies should first look within — by reducing energy usage and developing new products — then look to engage partners in the corporate, government and nonprofit sectors:

  • Reduce energy use or emissions (64 percent)
  • Create new products that are better for the environment (57 percent)
  • Work with other companies that are also committed to the issue (44 percent)
  • Lobby for government policies that address climate change (33 percent)
  • Donate to nonprofits that address climate change (27 percent)
  • Provide consumers with information about how climate change impacts individuals (17 percent)
  • Provide consumers with tools to take action (16 percent)

“Although the United States is currently the only country globally that is not committed to the Paris Climate Accord, U.S. citizens are not turning their attention away from the effects of climate change,” says Alison DaSilva, EVP of CSR and Purpose at Cone. “Americans are looking to companies to make large-scale change in addressing climate change and feel business has the size, acumen and resources to make a meaningful impact.”

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Political affiliation, gender play a role in climate change opinions

The study confirmed that differences exist when it comes to viewpoints on climate change. Political affiliation and gender are two of the strongest indicators of climate change stances.

Democrats are the most likely group to say climate change is a problem (84 percent), followed by Independents (62 percent) and finally Republicans (37 percent). More than three-quarters (76 percent) of Democrats also see companies as the leading stakeholder to addressing climate change in the absence of government progress (vs 57 percent Independent; 38 percent Republican).

Differences exist among gender as well. Women are more likely than men to believe climate change is a problem (66 percent vs 59 percent of men). And while men and women are roughly equal in believing companies should lead (59 percent female vs 58 percent male), their perspectives on how companies should address climate change differ: Although both genders agree reducing energy or emissions is a primary method (63 percent women vs 64 percent men), women are more likely to believe companies should innovate products to be better for the environment (60 percent female vs 55 percent male), and that donations can be an important way to drive change (31 percent female vs 23 percent male).

“With the midterm elections less than two months away, topics like climate change will be foremost in the minds of many American constituents – not just in terms of the candidates they vote for, but also the businesses they support,” says Aaron Pickering, SVP of CSR and Purpose at Cone. “Today more than ever, it’s critical for companies to proactively communicate with stakeholders the ways in which they are working to address climate change.”


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