Why CEOs need to become activists in sustainability

NY UN Building Sustainable Development Goals 2018

(United Nations, 2015)

This article is brought to you based on the strategic cooperation of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Clarissa Watson, Head of Marketing, Alto Data Analytics

As the world becomes increasingly politically polarized and some governments abandon sustainable initiatives, like US President Donald Trump’s announcement to pull out of the Paris Agreement in 2017, consumers are now looking towards CEOs and their companies to spearhead sustainability.

During the last quarter of 2017, our company, Alto Data Analytics, which specializes in public opinion analysis using big data and AI, conducted an analysis of digital opinions to understand what sustainability means to the American public. The analysis focused on the main challenges consumers expect CEOs to confront, as well which companies are currently setting the bar in sustainable practices. Alto Data Analytics collected 72 million data points from 3.2 million comments and 1.7 million interactions created by 1.3 million authors across Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Reddit, forums, blogs, news and other digital sources in English and Spanish.

Authors focus attention on 5 key themes

We identified emerging narratives by connecting the topics authors discussed simultaneously and with a high frequency, as part of their spontaneous digital conversations. We spotted five key emerging narratives and themes of public interest: climate change, renewable energies, zero waste, environmental impact by consumption and UN sustainable development goals. Climate Change is top of mind, capturing 39% of the conversation, along with another 33 adjacent themes.

Image: Alto Data Analytics

The interconnection of the key themes revealed adjacent narratives such as gender, hunger, sustainable cities, the circular economy and how blockchain technology is impacting the environment. As the data visualization shows, zero waste is closely connected with the discussion around sustainable cities, the circular economy, sustainable investing and how blockchain is related to renewable energies in the context of technological impact.

Tech companies are shaping conversations around sustainability

By analysing the digital footprint of authors, visual representations show how their voices cluster in distinct communities and which authors have more influence. Authors are represented as nodes (i.e. profiles) of consumers, political organizations and brands.

The network visualization below connects the 758,040 most active authors through their 1,663,078 interactions in the form of re-tweets and replies within the public debate on sustainability. Our data shows that the conversation on sustainability is highly polarized. The blue community shows a tendency of nodes to cluster around politicized themes, driven by politicians and celebrity campaigning. This community represents 60.3% of all authors, mostly focused on Trump, Bernie Sanders and the Flint, Michigan, clean water crisis. The second community, shown in yellow and smaller in size, represents 19.9% of authors who focus on a non-political debate, including those from the private sector, around the key 5 themes previously identified.

Image: Alto Data Analytics

The analysis shows how some of the most influential nodes in the non-politicized community are consumer brands, with tech companies leading the way. By analysing which brands and initiatives are most mentioned in relation to sustainable practices, we discovered six key areas of consumer interest: Renewable Energies, Zero Waste, Sustainable Production, Save the Ocean, Protect the Forest and Clean the Rivers.

Consumers’ minds are being shaped primarily by tech companies investing in renewable energies directly connected to their businesses and the idea of the circular economy. Tesla, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, General Electric, Apple, Intel and Sony are among the top-mentioned brands related to sustainable practices.

Qualitative research also uncovered that consumers highly value CEOs who publicly endorse their company’s sustainability plans and actively join the digital debate. Initiatives that received high visibility in our analysis were Tesla’s use of solar panels and batteries to restore electricity at San Juan’s children’s hospital after Hurricane Maria and Pepsi’s zero-waste strategy with programs to educate and encourage students to recycle. Consumers are turning to CEOs in search of leaders that not only provide long-term commitments, but leaders who push their brands to catalyse consumers and other brands in new and collaborative ways. The top example from our research was Coca-Cola’s “Clean Coast Week” in Ireland, which had a strong digital echo in the US. Coca-Cola raised awareness of the importance of protecting our coastlines, encouraged more coastal clean-ups around the country and facilitated, through digital media, the recruitment of volunteers to clean their local beaches.

What makes an activist CEO?

Our research shows that companies in the tech sector are already leading sustainability – through renewable energies and zero-waste models of production – and are shaping consumers’ minds on how technology companies approach sustainability. Forty-two percent of the 80 most influential company profiles were from the tech sector and three out of the five top companies ranked by public opinion to be contributing the most to sustainability were tech companies: Amazon, Microsoft and Google.

Image: Alto Data Analytics

Consumers expect companies to publicly lead the debate with both short-term and present strategies that deliver with long-term commitment. As demonstrated in the case of Starbucks, consumers pay attention to follow-through and highly value tangible initiatives catalysing consumer and other brands’ actions.

CEOs must actively join the public discussion. Consumers expect CEOs to prioritize sustainability in operating their businesses, as our analysis shows. Consumers need role models and leaders especially when public opinion expresses disappointment that some governments are not prepared to make tangible commitments. There is a clear opportunity for CEOs to take responsibility by joining and leading the public debate on sustainability.

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

UN expresses concern following wave of street protests in Iraq and elsewhere

EU leaders agree on 2030 Climate and Energy Package: is “flexible” brave enough?

Topic: Mental Health in times of pandemic: What can each individual do to lessen the burden?

Governments should step up their efforts to give people skills to seize opportunities in a digital world

This crisis cannot be confronted with statistics

Parliament to vote on new European Commission on 27 November

What brands get wrong about China – and how to put it right

Climate Change: A Healthcare Emergency

Iran protests: Live ammunition reportedly used, says UN human rights office

Handwashing is not just for coronavirus – how good hygiene could help reduce antibiotic use

OECD’s Gurría calls for overhaul of economic thinking to address global challenges

MEPs Anti-fraud votes for more votes?

Much more than a ‘lifeline’ for millions of households, remittances can spur global growth, says UN agency

Longer hours, more emails and shorter meetings – working from home in the time of COVID

Austria, Italy, Portugal, Spain receive €279m after natural disasters in 2019

Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate deal is bad for US business. Here’s why.

UN’s Bachelet addresses progress and setbacks in human rights worldwide

Guterres underscores UN role in achieving a free, secure Internet

Coronavirus COVID-19 wipes $50 billion off global exports in February alone, as IMF pledges support for vulnerable nations

Draghi, Letta: All Eurozone countries must be able to borrow like Germany

Antitrust: Commission imposes interim measures on Broadcom in TV and modem chipset markets

ECB: Reaching the limits of its mandate to revive the Eurozone economy

Coronavirus could trigger a hunger pandemic – unless urgent action is taken

WEF Davos 2016 LIVE: “Employment contracts today are a reducing share of the workforce”, scientists worry in Davos that the 4th industrial revolution threatens employment globally

First peaceful transfer of power in DR Congo ‘an extraordinary opportunity’ for advancing rights

Parliament boosts consumer rights online and offline

Training for staff in early childhood education and care must promote practices that foster children’s learning, development and well-being

Swiss vote approves nationwide paternity leave

The best and worst parenting advice I’ve heard, by a leading psychologist

Data is the oil of the digital world. What if tech giants had to buy it from us?

CEOs say these 4 factors will shape business in 2020

Citing public anger and youth activism, OECD Secretary-General urges governments to heed calls for climate action

Mergers: Commission opens in-depth investigation into proposed acquisition of Metallo by Aurubis

Venezuelan exodus to Ecuador reaches record levels: UN refugee agency steps up aid

Achieving a European Education Area by 2025 and resetting education and training for the digital age

Idlib deal could save three million ‘from catastrophe’ says UN chief, as militants are urged to lay down arms

Long-term EU budget: MEPs slam cuts to culture and education

Smart cities must pay more attention to the people who live in them

David Attenborough: The planet can’t cope with overpopulation

Only one in five countries has a healthcare strategy to deal with climate change

168 hours left for MEPs – ECOFIN Council to deliver a Banking Union

Kosovo elections: ‘Most significant change’ in 12 years, Security Council hears

These deepwater fish farms could help natural stocks recover

To what extent are our moral standards responsible for killing people?

A shortened EU Summit admits failures, makes risky promises

These airports are now opening their doors to non-fliers

Syria: Ease suffering, save lives, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator tells Security Council

So, what is your favourite Sustainable Development Goal?

COP24: Huge untapped potential in greener construction, says UN environment agency

World Malaria Day: 7 things to know about the deadly disease

Yemen update: UNICEF chief condemns attack in Taiz that claims lives of seven children

European Confederation of Junior Enterprises hosts in Geneva the Junior Enterprise World Conference

GREXIT final wrap-up: nobody believed Aesop’s boy who cried wolf so many times

French election: Will France vote for a reformed or no EU?

These are the 3 key skill sets workers will need to learn by 2030

2021-2027 EU Budget: €378,1 billion to benefit all regions

Bias in AI is a real problem. Here’s what we should do about it

After Rio Grande tragedy, UNICEF chief highlights ‘dire’ detention centres on US-Mexico border

AIESEC @ European Business Summit 2014: European Youth, Change Now Patiently

Medical education during COVID-19 pandemic

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s