What is the consumer perspective on brands in relation to the key themes of COP28?

With COP28 taking place over the next two weeks, we review the consumer perspective on the key themes of the conference.
06 December 2023
COP 28
Karine Trinquetel

Global Sustainability Offer Lead

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COP28 aims to drive tangible climate action through collaboration across governments, civil society, industries, and business leaders amongst others. As an overarching principle, all should consider nature and climate together in all decisions in line with the common Sustainable Development Goals. To make this a success, brands also must consider how they leverage their efforts to engage people who buy them now or in the future. And following a host of climate-related emergencies such as the floods in Pakistan, crop failures in India, wildfires in Greece and 40.3°C temperatures in once-temperate England, the pressure is on. 

Environmental and attached social challenges are the defining issues of our age and all around the world, it’s becoming personal. Globally people say we need to do whatever we can to fight the climate catastrophe (69%) and social inequality and injustice (70%). With these levels of engagement in the topic, that’s no surprise that COP events attract more and more attention from the general public. 

But what do people think about all the big themes due to be discussed at COP28? How does that relate to brands? We take you on a tour of the COP28 agenda and share some insights from Kantar's newly released edition of the Sustainability Sector Index 2023. The global data shared is based on 32,000 interviews across 42 sectors in 33 countries.
We present here a subset of the topics of COP28, for the full list visit www.cop28.com. 

3 December – Health

COP28 will host the first Health Day to define priority actions for the health system’s response to climate change. A very welcomed addition to the agenda when we know that ‘Good health and Well-being’ SDG 3, features in the top 5 of people’s concerns alongside with ‘Climate action’ SDG 13, ‘Responsible Consumption and Production’ SDG 12, ‘Life on Land’ SDG 15 and ‘Reduced inqualities’ SDG 10. 

In the Sustainability Sector Index 2023, we asked people to tell us, out of 40 topics, which environmental or social issues they are most concerned about, and grouped people’s responses by SDGs. Top5 SDGs scores shown below. The ‘Good health and wellbeing’ score is a combination of physical and mental health topics.

And this is a space where people expect brands across sectors to act. In the 2022 edition of the Sustainability Sector Index emerged a macro code of conduct around ‘The Big Five’ issues that businesses are expected to uphold: and we think about this as a framework for a “Progressive Business Model” for companies wanting to advance the SDG agenda. As such we measured how brands in different sectors are doing against The Big 5 territories which includes ‘Good health and wellbeing’. The results? If 38% recognise that brands are making efforts to foster people’s positive health and wellbeing, the rest of the population is either undecided/doesn’t have an opinion (36%) and 26% even think that brands cause damage to people’s health and wellbeing. A fairly alarming result for such an important topic in people’s lives. 

Kantar's Sustainability Sector index data on Health

4 December – Accountability, finance

Turning promises and ambitions into tangible results is key to ensuring progress. For this reason,  COP28 will call for greater accountability from the private sector and financial institutions highlighting how climate finance must be structured moving forward to achieve real transformation.

There is a huge opportunity for brands who ‘get sustainability right’, but with 52% of people saying they have seen, or heard, false or misleading information about sustainable actions taken by brands, we might witness the opposite effect of eroding trust in brands. Which in turn acts as a barrier to change.

So do brands currently convince people that they care and take action to address environmental and social issues? 41% of people answered favourably, trusting that brands take responsibility for sustainability issues while 28% think they don’t care and the rest 31% are left unsure.

With such a highlight on the importance of sustainable finance markets, do people think brands in financial services, banking, or insurance currently deliver? One main learning is that more people don’t know how committed brands in this sector are with 36% left unsure. Accordingly, we see a lower amount of people who think they take responsibility at 38% and a lower amount of people who think they don’t care at 26%. 

Kantar's Sustainability Sector index data

5 December – Energy

This year's call for phasing out fossil fuels surrounding COP28 and massive deployment of renewable energy is posed as one of the most significant asks and priorities. Finding the levers and pathways for rapid decarbonization is critical and bringing people on this journey is key to that unlock. 

In Kantar’s Global Issues Barometer (Wave 4), people already stressed that reducing fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions is the number one action people want to see tackled to address climate change. And 82% agree we should move faster on renewable energy sources.

Across sectors, there remains a significant gap between consumers’ values around environmental and social issues and the way they behave - known as the ‘value action gap’. In the oil and gas industry, however, this is a colossal 66% gap, the highest gap of all the 42 sectors measured in the Sustainability Sector Index. This shows that people feel that the industry is failing to step up - and capitalise on - the green opportunity. So, it’s particularly important for brands in the industry to mind the gap, innovate and facilitate people’s transition toward more sustainable behaviours in line with their needs and beliefs. 

Kantar's Sustainability Sector index data on Energy

6 December – Multi-level action 

People have a strong sense of shared responsibility between governments, the general public, brands and the media to tackle environmental and social issues. All need to close the ‘Responsibility-Action gap’, it’s not just down to people to drive change. Multi-level action is required. Companies and brands have a key part to play, as 46% of the public holds them accountable for helping to tackle climate change and environmental issues in the top 3 with governments and the general public. Other Kantar research has shown that across the range of disruptive forces the world is facing, the public allocates businesses’ greatest responsibility for climate change.

Kantar's Sustainability Sector index data

8 December – Youth, Children, Education, Skills

In line with the government’s responsibility to act, Kantar Planet Pulse research has shown that 84% of people globally think they should be doing more to promote the creation of green jobs. This is key to achieving a Just Transition, promoting job growth and economic opportunity.

Equipping everyone with the knowledge and skills to tackle sustainability challenges is key to our future. This must start in our education systems, supporting our youth and children to build the skills and resilience they need now and in the future.

That is at the forefront of people’s minds. Brands need to consider this as it impacts their current buyers and future buyers. We see across our data an even greater commitment to sustainable behaviours and consumption from people who have children in their household – both embracing new solutions and stopping what they see as having a negative impact. This is a key rational and emotional driver for parents and people living with kids.

Kantar's Sustainability Sector index data

9 December – Nature, Land use, and Ocean 

Beyond conservation, restoring nature is pivotal for achieving the goals of Paris Agreement – on land and below water. The private sector has a strong influence on how effectively natural ecosystems are managed.

As we saw at the beginning of this article, people see responsible production as a must – being seen as a polluter is a strong risk for brands. And Biodiversity is also something close to people’s hearts whether it is deforestation or animal life on land or in the ocean. 
Some brands are showing leadership on these topics, fighting plastic pollution, supporting regenerative farming, moving to renewable or converting waste into innovation for example. Turning a risk into an opportunity. Especially when we know that on average across sectors only 35% of people believe that brands do a great job at not polluting while 32% think they are big polluters. Leaving 34% unsure about the impact of brands in this space. It still appears as a white space opportunity for brands to unlock.

Kantar's Sustainability Sector index data on nature

10 Dec – Water

Last year COP27 Planet Pulse revealed that Water management was voted 2nd most important theme needing action after the Energy transition.

This worry is still at the forefront of people's minds with Water pollution featuring in the fifth position of people’s concerns when looking at single issues. The more people are under financial pressure, the more acute this issue is. 

As 70% of freshwater consumed worldwide is used for agricultural production, the private sector's power of action and innovation remains without a doubt at the centre of driving better water stewardship. This will not only manage their own risks but also promote long-term water security for all.


Kantar's Sustainability Sector index data on water

Wonder how people see your sector or your brand in particular on key sustainability topics? The Sustainability Sector Index provides a sectorial lens on the topics talked about in this article. We can help define priority levers of action for your brand in your industry to drive people engagement.  

Kantar’s Sustainability Sector Index 2023 provides insights from 32,000 interviews across 42 sectors in 33 countries to help brands understand what sustainability means in their sector, how consumers perceive brands, and how to build trust and leadership in this crucial area. Get in touch to know more about how we can help you shape your brand actions on this topic.


Follow our COP 28 coverage and insights here. 

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