Monday, September 22, 2008

Bridging the “Green Gap”

The gap between values and behavior represents a significant reputational risk for individuals, institutions and entire industries. It’s true for the Presidential race. It’s true for Wall Street. And it’s no less true for corporations’ role in addressing climate change, according to the results of a study released by our firm today.

Conducted by Harris Interactive, the 2008 Makovsky Green Gap Survey of 150 leading executives at Fortune 1000 companies found that the vast majority (80%) of top American executives say they are “personally concerned” about climate change. Despite the fact that they believe that climate change is real — and a threat to future generations — as a group they are not driving their organizations to act on those convictions. For example, 76 percent say that their companies should be collaborating with industry groups, suppliers and/or customers to address CO2 emissions standards, but only 57 percent are doing so. While 71 percent say that their companies should be educating employees on climate change issues, only 49 percent are following through.

This is the “green gap.” What accounts for it? It’s not what you would think … it’s not that there is no perceived pay-off for responsible environmental stewardship. In fact, the vast majority (73%) of senior executives link environmentalism with business success. Sixty-one percent say that actions taken by corporations can, in fact, effect change on the environment. What’s more, three out of four (75%) think their company’s action on climate change issues could improve their corporate or brand reputation, strengthen sales and ROI (67%) and improve employee recruitment and retention (58%).

With such a substantial pay-off, why is there a “green gap” at all? According to the respondents, it’s a matter of resource allocation (cited by 60%) and cost (47%).

In her post on BusinessWeek’s Green Business blog, Associate Editor Heather Greene quotes, Makovsky EVP Robbin Goodman as saying, “American business leaders as a group are deeply concerned about global warming and believe that responsible environmental policies make business sense. The challenge moving forward, however, is to unleash these convictions.”

I couldn’t agree more! American businesses see shared responsibility when it comes to remedying the effects of climate change; individuals, the federal government and foreign governments also need to do their part. But it’s up to U.S. corporations to start the ball rolling. We need to bridge the “green gap,” especially when the pay-off represents an increased investment — both financially and emotionally — in the corporation by its stakeholders.

Technorati Tags: green gap, climate change, Harris Interactive, 2008 Makovsky Green Gap Survey, climate change issues, environment, business success, resource allocation, BusinessWeek, Green Business blog, Heather Greene, Robbin Goodman, business, communications, public relations


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