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 Milestones

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

This is what you need to know about the Iran nuclear deal

A brief history of cryptography and why it matters

Global South cooperation ‘vital’ to climate change fight, development, Guterres tells historic Buenos Aires summit

On Youth Participation: Are we active citizens?

MWC 2016 LIVE: Verizon boasts momentum for IoT platform

In 1975 NASA envisioned future life in space would look like this

Human rights ‘core to sustainable development’: deputy UN chief

Alarming number of women mistreated during childbirth, new UN health agency figures show

Service and Sacrifice: Ugandan ‘Blue Helmets’ support UN efforts to bring peace to Somalia

Withdrawal Agreement: Commission sends letter of formal notice to the United Kingdom for breach of its obligations under the Protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland

More women and girls needed in the sciences to solve world’s biggest challenges

This is how we can empower 8 billion minds by 2030

MEPs call on EU Commission to step up action against dangerous chemicals

It’s down to cities to limit global warming to 1.5°C by 2030

4 key steps to support cross-border payments and digital trade growth

A Brussels antithesis reveals where the EU is heading

Balancing The Broken See-Saw of Gender Power Dynamics as a Medical Student

IMF: When high yield goes boom

VP McGuinness on women’s rights: “Not an option, but a duty”

Blockchain will make sure green pledges aren’t just greenwash: a new initiative by young leaders at the World Economic Forum

Why countries are desperate to defy the odds and access Mars

Egypt: The road to hell paved with western advices for democracy

Rohingya emergency one year on: UN says thousands of lives saved, but challenges remain

5 ways CEOs can renew their businesses for the digital age

MWC 2016 LIVE: Stripe gives payments leg-up to startups in emerging markets

Tackling pollution and climate change in Europe will improve health and well-being, especially for the most vulnerable

UN experts voice ‘deep concern’ over Iran’s ‘consistent pattern’ of denying life-saving medical treatment to detainees

3 lessons from running an AI-powered start-up in Africa

How studying genetics and lifestyle can shape a healthier MENA region

Fighting crime: faster EU-wide exchange of non-EU nationals’ criminal records

China Unlimited: an exclusive interview with the former Ambassador of Hungary to China

Financial abuse of elderly ‘rampant, but invisible’, says UN expert

George Floyd: these are the injustices that led to the protests in the United States

What is the IMF telling Eurozone about fiscal and banking unification?

Will Europe be able to deal with the migration crisis alone if Turkey quits the pact?

Code of Practice on Disinformation one year on: online platforms submit self-assessment reports

Electric vehicles are half the market in Norway

EU mobilises further €15.2 million humanitarian support for food safety, epidemics preparedness and support to people in conflict areas in Latin America and Caribbean

Universal Health Coverage will ‘drive progress’ on 2030 Development Agenda

Marco Polo’s Dream

UN Convention that promotes mediation to resolve trade disputes moves closer to entry into force

6 principles to unite business in the fight against cybercrime

Trade with the United States: Council authorises negotiations on elimination of tariffs for industrial goods and on conformity assessment

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

If a virus could sing … Could this musical version of COVID-19 help us defeat the disease?

‘Exercise restraint’ Guterres urges Sri Lankans, as political crisis deepens

How global food safety protects the planet and begins on the farm

Electronic cigarettes – The alternative we’ve been looking for?

EU Strategy on COVID-19 vaccines must guarantee safety and accessibility for all

UN Security Council offers Yemen Special Envoy ‘their full support’

The EU Consumer Policy on the Digital Market: A Behavioral Economics View

Why EU’s working and unemployed millions remain uncertain or even desperate about their future

Confidence-building measures continue in new Yemen prisoner-swap talks

EU leaders slammed on anti-tax evasion inaction and expensive energy

The new European Union of banks is ready

New Syria fighting represents ‘giant powder keg’, warns aid veteran, as he leaves UN stage

Sweden must urgently implement reforms to boost fight against foreign bribery

Young people worldwide can ‘determine the future of migration,’ says UN senior official

‘Reasons to hope’ for sustainable peace in Central African Republic – UN Mission chief

Why artificial intelligence is learning emotional intelligence

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