80% of consumers surveyed across 16 countries now view climate change as the world’s No. 1 challenge

A recent research conducted by GSMA Intelligence with support from Huawei, revealed that 80% of consumers surveyed across 16 countries now view climate change as the world’s No. 1 challenge. These countries include Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Pakistan, Philippines, South Korea, Spain, and UK.

The research found that Saudi consumers would pay a premium for certain services that were well above the average. Around 56% of Saudi consumers stated that they were willing to pay more to ride in a carbon-neutral taxi, vs. 40% of consumers in other countries. Similarly, they were also willing to pay more for hotels, train tickets, broadband internet, groceries, computers, clothing, and smartphones.

About 60% of survey respondents in Saudi Arabia stated that they would accept a lower salary in order to work for an organization that had set a target to reduce its carbon emissions. That compares with about half of respondents, on average, in other countries surveyed.

Moreover, the study found that 60% of respondents consider climate or sustainability when buying a product, while 45% say they are willing to pay a premium for products and services that have been certified carbon neutral. Consumer perceptions are therefore firmly aligned with the scientific consensus that climate change is the single, most crucial, long-term challenge faced by the world. From a business perspective, it also means people are increasingly voting with their feet.

“There is a latent ‘green premium’ available for telecom operators if sustainability criteria can be embedded into product design and marketing,” said Tim Hatt, head of research and consulting at GSMA Intelligence. “Consumers want to align with green brands and will pay for assured credentials on the products they buy, and there is a first-mover advantage still out there for companies to meet this demand.”

From an industry perspective, Tim Hatt of GSMA Intelligence stated that, “For operators, selling 5G and other technologies to enterprise verticals offers both productivity gains and higher power efficiency,” said. “The latter has historically been underappreciated but is now center stage; any company on a 2050 net-zero timeline will have to cut CO2 emissions by 50% in each successive decade.

Customers were surveyed by GSMA Intelligence to find out if they would pay more for a product or service that was certified as carbon neutral and 30 to 60 percent of those surveyed stated they would. Companies that fail to embed climate change in their core business strategy risk damaging their reputation and also lose the opportunity to launch potentially profitable new lines of business.

The inclination toward such “green purchasing” appeared to be greatest in countries that are most exposed to extreme weather conditions induced by climate change. The highest correlations are seen in the Philippines, Pakistan, Brazil, Türkiye, and Indonesia–fast-growing emerging economies with direct exposure to warming and extreme weather events. Consumers in such countries indicated an above-average willingness to change their behavior in response to climate change.

“When it comes to investing, sustainability is no longer considered a niche,” said David Trevitt, a digital transformation advisor at Huawei, which funded the GSMA Intelligence research.

Trevitt recently addressed the topic of sustainability and corporate reputation in the Huawei’s thought leadership magazine, Transform.

“Climate response is an ethical issue that is becoming an increasingly important part of reputation management for many enterprises. To avoid reputational damage, organizations must embed their climate response in their business strategy,” Trevitt added.

GSMA Intelligence is the definitive source of global mobile operator data, insights, and forecasts, and a publisher of authoritative industry reports and research. All three GSMA Intelligence white papers are available here.