4 November 2015
New research from Aston University has found that business leaders are struggling to adapt to a low carbon economy, despite their ongoing obligations to do so. Over a third (38%) of business leaders say they do not see climate change and the transition to a low carbon economy as a concern, while another 41% see it as just a ‘minor concern’.
Despite 66% of business leaders believing that their business does have a responsibility to do something about climate change and support the transition to a low carbon economy, only 7% have adapted their corporate strategy and future business plans to accommodate the issue. A further 16% have plans to make significant changes, while 32% say their business is not adapting its plans at all.
The figures are revealed in a survey carried out by YouGov 1 ahead of Aston University’s first student Carbon Week (2-6 November). The University is taking the pioneering step of dedicating a whole week of teaching for all second year undergraduates, across all its schools, to the importance of understanding the challenge of climate change and the requirements of a low carbon economy. The timing of the event comes just weeks before the UN Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21), which starts on 30 November.
Separate research undertaken by YouthSight 2 revealed that students have an even higher sense of responsibility than business leaders, with 98% saying they believe they have a responsibility to do something about climate change, and 46% saying they are very concerned about the issue.
Students are the key to businesses making a change. When it comes to recruitment, 43% of businesses looking for new staff with knowledge of climate change believe that graduate applicants are prepared on the issue, although nearly two-thirds (59%) of businesses say they do not require new recruits to have any knowledge or understanding of the subject.
Young people are looking to business to address the challenges of climate change, with nearly a fifth (19%) of students saying that when they graduate it will be important that any future employer is doing this. However, less than a third of students (28%) questioned say they have received education, or training on climate change and the low carbon economy whilst at university.
Commenting on the findings, Professor Dame Julia King, Vice-Chancellor of Aston University said:
“Climate change is perhaps the biggest challenge facing the world today and it is clear that students and business leaders alike feel a sense of responsibility. What is also evident is that at present businesses are not necessarily prepared and equipped to respond to the challenge. Through education and career opportunities, we can harness this sense of responsibility to the benefit of both young people and future employers.
“Almost three quarters of students questioned in our research say they aren’t receiving training or education on these themes at university. By taking this pioneering approach and dedicating a week of the academic term to teaching students about the impact of climate change, we not only give our students the unique opportunity to learn vital skills that they can then take forward in their careers, but we set the benchmark for other academic institutions and employers about how important it is to act on this issue now.”
Ben Wielgus, Associate Director, Sustainability Services, KPMG LLP commented:
“KPMG this year has recruited around 1,000 graduates in the UK, and our clients hire tens of thousands more. For us, it is increasingly important that all of these graduates understand the challenges and opportunities from climate change and wider sustainability topics. I believe that these megaforces are undoubtedly going to change the way business and society works and the most successful companies will hire the best graduates who understand and can adapt to this changing agenda.”
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Notes to editors:
1. Business research was conducted by YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,002 senior decision makers in businesses of all sizes, excluding sole traders. Fieldwork was undertaken between 12-21 October 2015. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of British business size.
2. Student research fieldwork was conducted by YouthSight between 9-12 October 2015. The sample consisted of 1005 interviews with students; representative of the UK in terms of gender, year of study, and institution type.
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