Experts Give Governments Low Marks for Sustainable Development

by | Jun 7, 2012

Nearly 77 percent of sustainability experts think a major catastrophe will have to occur for national governments to take action on sustainable development, according to survey released by GlobeScan and SustainAbility.

The survey, which is part of series of initiatives by The Regeneration Project in the lead up to  Rio+20 conference, suggests that with confidence in national governments at severe lows, society has greater expectations for business, said Dr. Rainer Feurer, senior vice president corporate strategy, planning and environment at BMW Group, a presenting sponsor of The Regeneration Project.

GlobeScan and SustainAbility surveyed 1,603 sustainability experts across corporate, government, NGO, academic, research and service/media organizations in 117 countries.

The survey aimed to measure the performance of organizations including city and local governments, the United Nations, media, religious and faith-based groups, among others, in terms of their contribution to progress on sustainable development since the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio.

NGOs, social entrepreneurs, independent research and academic organizations, and the media received the five best performance ratings. National governments received the worst performance rating from experts.

Business has a crucial role to play in spurring governments into action, the survey found. Some 33 percent of respondents said the private sector can best contribute to sustainable development by working with governments to establish a regulatory environment.

Forty-one percent said technology and innovation are the best ways the private sector can contribute to sustainable development.

Other key findings of the sustainability experts survey include:

  • Nearly eight in 10 sustainability experts believe the current economic system must be substantially overhauled;
  • Some 68 percent of those surveyed identified a local of political will as the greatest obstacle to making further progress on sustainable development;

SustainAbility, a think tank and strategic advisory firm, and GlobeScan, also conducted a public opinion survey to gauge views on sustainable development. The public survey polled samples of about 1,000 adults per country in 23 countries. Respondents were interviewed in person or by telephone between December 2011 and February 2012.

Scientists, NGOs and the UN received the highest performance rating for helping to make progress on economic, social and environmental challenges, according to the public opinion survey.

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