Global researcher tips governments on how to avert environmental disaster

Head of Climate Change and Sustainability Practice at IPSOS (UK), Dr Pippa Bailey, has tipped states and governments on how they can avert global environmental disaster.

Bailey said there is a need to push for behavioural and mindset change on waste management, stressing that getting consumers to recycle is key in averting environmental disaster.

She made the remarks during her presentation at the recent virtual E-Cigarette Summit. In her presentation, Dr Bailey set out the concerns, perceptions, and attitudes of citizens around the world towards climate change and sustainability from the latest IPSOS research – which she believed could inform how organizations can change to become more sustainable.

Her headline data was that 83 percent of citizens across the globe believe that the environment is heading towards disaster. This is felt the most in South America where the impact of climate change is greatest.

Dr Pippa Bailey

“The research shows that the environment is the most prominent concern that unifies citizens across the globe. Concerns around waste packaging and single use plastics rank ahead of climate change, which tends to be informed by the images people see of the oceans and their immediate surroundings,” said Bailey.
Dr Bailey pointed out that cigarette butts are the most littered product on the planet, and proposed that both leadership and innovation are key to solving this.
The IPSOS research showed that global citizens feel that they have given governments and businesses a mandate to address the environment.

Additionally, 62 percent of citizens believe the misuse of the environment is the root cause of pandemics. Social and environment concerns are increasingly becoming intrinsically linked. Dr Bailey advised that companies must avoid operating in ESG silos.

She observed that consumers do not think that way, so neither should companies. Instead, their approach should be more holistic.

Quoting data, Dr Baily said most citizens say that they care about the environment, but when analyzing the actions people take (Say-Do gap), Ipsos says they tend to overestimate (Believe-True gap) the small actions they take and underplay the large actions they could take but don’t.

“Businesses and governments need to make it easier for people to understand what more they could do to effect change,” she advised, further pointing out that behavioural change is a big part of getting consumers to recycle.

“Most citizens are not willing to pay extra to achieve that, however. They are willing to make the sustainable choice, but the financial and social benefits must be equal in their eyes,” said Dr. Bailey.

In his presentation, global nicotine and tobacco investment consultant, Erik Bloomquist, stated that the main priority for investors is tobacco companies’ transition to tobacco harm reduction products, which they believe can drive the greatest returns in the future.

Bloomquist cited Foundation for a Smoke Free World’s Tobacco Transformation Index with the 2022 index being released in a few months.

He presented data from 2020, breaking down the materiality of how companies are performing. Product sales, capital allocation and expenditure are three important categories for investors, which they believe are key to how companies are transitioning.

He also presented a data set from the index which showed how the relationship between companies’ price/earnings ratios compare with their Tobacco Transformation Index rating, with JT Group and Imperial Brands producing low scores and PMI and BAT performing well.

Bloomquist added that engagement, not exclusion, is important, and that investors support this.

On the other hand, Sarah Bostwick, Head of Sustainability Stakeholder Engagement at Philip Morris International (PMI), set out the objectives of PMI to end smoking and phase out cigarettes, as well as to build a new business based around healthcare and wellness.

Bostwick said the company’s aim is to generate new sustainable revenues from these segments.

In the company’s 2019 sustainability materiality report, PMI set out how they account for internal developments and stay abreast of external trends using a five-step process of identifying ESG topics, gathering stakeholder perspectives, assessing their outward impact, assessing their inward impact and identifying their most material ESG topics.

Bostwick said they found that PMI can make a huge difference through improvements in product health impacts and climate change – although PMI’s footprint is not significant.

They also found that there are several emerging topics ;water, biodiversity, and human capital development to be mindful of.

Bostwick stressed that the company invites stakeholders to scrutinize and engage, and that their refreshed materiality assessment is helping them to produce a net positive impact on society.

Managing Director Ronald Ngwira

In his presentation, Pyxus Agriculture Malawi Managing Director, Ronald Ngwira, said his company has reduced water use by 60 percent through working closely with the likes of Universal Leaf, Imperial Brands and PMI in Malawi.

Ngwira said that building sustainability into the farmer base has been critical, saying this is why from 2004-2010, Pyxus were providing farmers with seedlings to reverse deforestation, but it was not working as well as expected.

“There has been a big ramp up in efforts since 2014 which has involved major investments, meaning that since 1991, the company has planted 8m + trees. Sustainability is being achieved through Growing Manager Systems, better training, addressing child labour – (by for example opening 34 schools) with traceability alongside investments being the key,” he said.

Pyxus is going through a transformation from tobacco to a general agricultural company, with groundnut playing a crucial part as it is an alternative higher value route.

Ngwira stressed that when he thinks about collaboration, transparency and engagement are key.

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