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Businesses Double Down on Sustainability as Consumers Focus on Costs

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While most businesses have intensified their sustainability efforts, many residential consumers’ actions have stalled as cost and complexity have slowed commitment to clean-energy solutions, according to Deloitte’s “Resources 2019 Study — Balancing climate, cost, and choice,” released today.

Although the annual survey shows widespread agreement on the need to address climate change and reduce their carbon footprints, businesses seem much more willing to take action than residential consumers. The survey found that businesses increasingly view sustainability as an opportunity to create value, while residential consumers tend to have a more nuanced view that factors in the cost and convenience of sustainability improvements.

“Consumer complacency may be settling in as costs outweigh climate as a motivator in adopting new technologies and cleaner energy sources,” said Marlene Motyka, Deloitte U.S. and global renewable energy leader and principal, Deloitte Transactions and Business Analytics LLP. “On the other hand, most businesses don’t perceive a choice between climate and cost. They see green energy choices as a win-win: doing the ‘right thing’ is good for the environment and the bottom line.”

According to the study, about two-thirds of business respondents say their customers are demanding they procure a certain percentage of their electricity from renewable resources, and nearly half of the businesses surveyed are seeking to do so. On the other hand, despite their own hesitations about investing in sustainability, most residential consumers surveyed expect action from the business sector and the government. Households also tend to believe it is the government’s responsibility to set the vision and path for U.S. energy strategy, indicating that government policies could help overcome consumer reluctance to adopt sustainable technologies.

Among the key findings:

Of the 84% of business respondents aware of recent global climate change reports, nearly two-thirds reviewed or changed their energy management strategies in response, with 83% increasing their commitment.

While energy management remains a top priority, with 9 in 10 reporting goals to reduce electricity consumption, most businesses surveyed are also expanding resource management goals in other areas — with water gaining the most ground with an increase from 59% in 2016 to 75% this year.

Among residential consumers polled, 67% are very concerned about climate change and their personal carbon footprints, but there was a slight retrenchment in how they felt about the importance of renewable sources of electricity — down to 48% from 53% in 2018.

Keeping total energy bills affordable rose five points to 63% in 2019, continuing to be the most important energy issue for residential consumers surveyed, while using clean energy sources fell slightly from 2018 to 50%.

Residential consumer behavior on climate in holding pattern: complacency or confusion?
When it comes to translating attitudes into action, the cost of electricity and the perceived cost/time investment required for changing behaviors or adopting new technologies, can be significant barriers to change. Moreover, messaging about new technologies, alternate providers, and other options do not appear to be coming through clearly. Whether it’s installing solar panels, enrolling in green energy programs, or purchasing battery storage or electric vehicles, many residential consumers consider those options too expensive or too complicated.

Slowing down on solar
Interest by surveyed residential consumers in installing rooftop solar fell from higher levels seen in 2016–17. Forty-four percent of those polled cite expense as the top barrier to solar installation, followed by uncertainty that panels would work as promised (21%). On the other hand, 39% of respondents would be extremely or very interested in purchasing a share in a community solar project, with interest highest among millennials (49%).

The millennial factor — the countertrend consumer
Surveyed millennials stand out as concerned about climate change and the only generation who consistently rate clean energy and exploring new technology options higher than other age cohorts. According to the study, 53% of millennials rate renewables’ role in their electricity supply as extremely or very important, as opposed to 40% in the mature age category (68+). In terms of technology adoption, 18% of respondents use software apps to track energy usage, with 29% of them using it daily. They’re also more likely to use home automation than older cohorts.

Home automation gaining momentum despite cyber concerns
Although home automation is at an early stage of deployment (only 2 in 10 of respondents), there are signs adoption is accelerating, with a doubling since 2016 of home device connectivity with smartphones. Fully 61% of active users surveyed are increasingly concerned about privacy and security, while 46% of all residential consumers say that these concerns might prevent them from purchasing smart home technology, and 39% of households link cyber risk with concerns about power outages.

Business see green begetting more green
While desire to cut costs was the top driver of those surveyed for resource management programs, “just ‘the right thing to do’” rose 11 points in 2019 to second place, at 39%. In fact, companies who view energy procurement as an opportunity to reduce risk, improve resilience and create new value, rather than as a cost — rose to 88% from 81% in prior years.

More businesses are also tying resource management goals to employee compensation, with 48% polled already incorporating energy objectives into goals, the highest level ever. Of those not working to procure more renewable energy, 65% said they could be motivated to do so by combining renewable energy with battery storage to provide backup generation and/or to improve the economics of the overall system.

Businesses increasingly look to onsite/self generation
By 2021, surveyed companies generating electricity on-site expect to source less power from electricity providers, falling from 40% of power consumed in 2018 to 35% of power consumed in 2021. They expect to replace this electric power with increased supplies from on-site renewable generation, off-site renewables and on-site co-generation. The top three reasons cited for installing onsite generation were diversification of energy supply, cost savings (up sharply) and price certainty.

Interest in electric vehicles (EVs) accelerating
Residential respondents are showing significant interest and intent in EVs, with 26% of respondents saying they are extremely or very interested in purchasing an EV, and 11% planning to replace their current vehicle with an EV. Concerns hindering growth are cost (44%), recharging convenience (29%) and range (26%), but if gasoline prices were higher, interest in purchasing an EV would likely rise for about 44% of residential consumers — and 55% of millennials.

On the business side, the survey shows that while business intentions to purchase EVs for their fleets remain unchanged, more are making the charging stations they provide to employees available for public use. More than half (54%) of respondents said their companies provide EV charging stations for employees, and of these companies, the percentage who make them available to the public ticked up to 6 points in 2018.

“For incumbent electricity providers and new entrants, inertia among residential consumers may, paradoxically, provide a competitive advantage,” said Stanley Porter, vice chairman, U.S. energy, resources and industrials leader, Deloitte Consulting LLP. “Generational preferences for greener energy, more choice, and more appetite for technology could open up markets. By understanding and segmenting the customer base and targeting them with clear and compelling messages through the appropriate channels, providers could break through consumer complacency and expand adoption of new services.”

Since 2010, Deloitte’s annual Resources study has been focused on the thinking of U.S. business and household decision-makers on energy usage, climate change, environmental responsibility, energy management and clean technologies. Based on surveys of 600 businesses across multiple sectors, and 1,500 residential consumers, the nationwide study was designed to provide insights that can help energy companies and businesses make energy-related investment and business decisions.

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The Path to Better Jobs in a Post Covid-19 Latin America

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Economic crises like the one that Latin America and the Caribbean is suffering now, have long-lasting effects on the structure of employment and may permanently drive many from the formal economy, according to a new World Bank report.

The Covid-19 pandemic is having the biggest impact on low-skilled workers and exacerbating the region’s already high inequality, according to EMPLOYMENT IN CRISIS: The Path to Better Jobs in a Post Covid-19 Latin America. Low-skilled workers often suffer from lower earnings for a decade following a crisis, while high-skilled workers see a quick rebound. As a result, government labor policies should focus on providing social safety nets and retraining, as well as improving the macroeconomic and business environment to ensure long-term and inclusive economic growth.

Economic recovery has often been a myth when it comes to jobs, but it doesn’t have to be that way,” said World Bank Vice President for Latin America and the Caribbean Carlos Felipe Jaramillo. “The right policies can help limit the impact crises have on employment and foster the creation of more jobs in recoveries.

As some of the largest shocks that have shaken the region in recent decades show, the consequences of crisis in Latin America and the Caribbean are long-term and leave deep scars on employment. For example, employment data from before and after the Brazilian debt crisis, the effects of the Asian financial crisis in Chile, and the impact of the 2008-2009 global crisis in Mexico show that rapid recoveries did not materialize. In all three cases, the employment curve suffered a strongly negative deviation because of these crisis, which, far from reversing became more pronounced over time.

On average, after three years, major crisis cause a net loss of 1.5 million jobs, with a 3% contraction of formal work and an expansion of the informal. The current crisis could be even worse and cause a contraction in formal employment of up to 4%.

Low skilled workers tend to suffer the most, exacerbating persistent inequities in the region. For them, the scars of the crises can remain for up to a decade, with loss of income and greater vulnerability. In addition, two thirds of the countries in the region do not have national assistance or unemployment insurance programs. To minimize this long-term scarring, governments should adopt policies to support a sustainable recovery of economies and facilitate the recovery of employment.

We need to seize the opportunity to build back better,” said Joana Silva, World Bank Senior Economist and the lead author of the report. “We should strengthen our labor markets so they are able to cope with and quickly reverse the impacts of future shocks.”

The key initial step is to put strong, prudent macroeconomic frameworks and automatic stabilizers in place to shield labor markets from potential crises. Sound fiscal and monetary policies can preserve macroeconomic stability and avert system-wide financial strain in the face of a shock. Fiscal reforms, including less distortive taxation, more efficient public spending, financially sustainable pension programs and clear fiscal rules are the first line of defense against crises.

Countercyclical income support programs, such as unemployment insurance and other transfers to households during downturns, limit the damage caused by contractions and help economies recover. One of the region’s challenges, though, is that large segments of the workforce are informal and thus cannot be reached through traditional unemployment insurance.

Also, it is crucial to increase the capacity of the region´s social protection and labor policies, blending these policies into systems that provide income support and prepare workers for new jobs through reskilling and reemployment assistance. Governments’ quick reaction to expand some social protection and labor programs in the wake of the pandemic can lead to progress in building better and more integrated social registries. This is feasible in the short run and can make a difference in the reach of these programs.

But stronger macroeconomic stabilizers and reforms to social protection and labor systems are not enough. Jump-starting job recovery by supporting vigorous job creation is also needed. This effort will require tackling structural issues. Competition policies, regional policies and labor regulations are key areas. If countries don’t address these fundamental issues, recoveries will remain characterized by sluggish job creation.

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Critical Reforms Needed to Reduce Inflation and Accelerate the Recovery

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While the government took measures to protect the economy against a much deeper recession, it would be essential to set policy foundations for a strong recovery, according to the latest World Bank Nigeria Development Update (NDU).

The NDU, titled “Resilience through Reforms”, notes that in 2020 the Nigerian economy experienced a shallower contraction of -1.8% than had been projected at the beginning of the pandemic (-3.2%). Although the economy started to grow again, prices are increasing rapidly, severely impacting Nigerian households. As of April 2021, the inflation rate was the highest in four years. Food prices accounted for over 60% of the total increase in inflation. Rising prices have pushed an estimated 7 million Nigerians below the poverty line in 2020 alone.

The report acknowledges notable government’s policy reforms aimed at mitigating the impact of the crisis and supporting the recovery; including steps taken towards reducing gasoline subsidies and adjusting electricity tariffs towards more cost-reflective levels, both aimed at expanding the fiscal space for pro-poor spending. In addition, the report highlights that both the Federal and State governments cut nonessential spending and redirected resources towards the COVID-19 response. At the same time, public-sector transparency has improved, in particular around the operations of the oil and gas sector.

The report however, notes that despite the more favorable external environment, with recovering oil prices and growth in advanced economies, a failure to sustain and deepen reforms would threaten both macroeconomic sustainability and policy credibility, thereby limiting the government’s ability to address gaps in human and physical capital which is needed to attract private investment.

“Nigeria faces interlinked challenges in relation to inflation, limited job opportunities, and insecurity”, said Shubham Chaudhuri, the World Bank Country Director for Nigeria. ”While the government has made efforts to reduce the effect of these by advancing long-delayed policy reforms, it is clear that these reforms will have to be sustained and deepened for Nigeria to realize its development potential.”

This edition of the Nigeria Development Update proposes near-term policy option organized around three priority objectives:

  • Reduce inflation by implementing policies that support macroeconomic stability, inclusive growth, and job creation;
  • Protect poor households from the impacts of inflation;
  • Facilitate access to financing for small and medium enterprises in key sectors to mitigate the effects of inflation and accelerate the recovery.

“Given the urgency to reduce inflation amidst the pandemic, a policy consensus and expedite reform implementation on exchange-rate management, monetary policy, trade policy, fiscal policy, and social protection would help save lives, protect livelihoods, and ensure a faster and sustained recovery” said Marco Hernandez, the World Bank Lead Economist for Nigeria and co-author of the report.

In addition to assessing Nigeria’s economic situation, this edition of the NDU also discusses how the COVID-19 crisis has affected employment; how inflation is exacerbating poverty in Nigeria; how reforming the power sector can ignite economic growth; and how Nigeria can mobilize revenues in a time of crisis.

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Indonesia: How to Boost the Economic Recovery

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Indonesia’s economy is projected to rebound from the 2020 recession with 4.4 percent growth in 2021. The rebound is predicated on the pandemic being contained and the global economy continuing to strengthen, according to the World Bank’s latest Indonesia Economic Prospects report (“Boosting the Recovery”), released today.

The report highlights that although consumption and investment growth were subdued during the first quarter of 2021, consumer sentiment and retail sales started to improve during the second quarter suggesting stronger growth momentum. However, it also notes that pandemic related uncertainty remains elevated due to risks of higher viral transmission.

“Accelerating the vaccine rollout, ensuring adequate testing and other public health measures, and maintaining strong monetary and fiscal support in the near term are essential to boosting Indonesia’s recovery,” said Satu Kahkonen, World Bank Country Director for Indonesia and Timor-Leste. “Parallel reforms to strengthen the investment climate, deepen financial markets, and improve fiscal space for longer-term sustainability and growth will be important to further build consumer and investor confidence.”  

The report recommends the government to develop a well sequenced medium-term fiscal strategy, including clear plans to improve tax revenues and fiscal space for priority spending. It also highlights the importance of maintaining accommodative monetary policy and stimulating private credit to support the real sector while monitoring external and financial vulnerabilities.

The report highlights the critical role of adequate social assistance in mitigating rising poverty risks. It finds that maintaining the 2020 social assistance package in 2021 could potentially keep 4.7 million Indonesians out of poverty.  

This edition of the report also looks at the possibilities for Indonesia to boost higher productivity jobs and women’s economic participation.

“Indonesia has reduced poverty through job creation and rising labor incomes over the past decade. The next stage is to create middle-class jobs that are more productive, earn higher incomes, and provide social benefits,” said Habib Rab, World Bank Lead Economist for Indonesia. “While the crisis risks have exacerbated Indonesia’s employment challenges, it is also an opportunity to address the competitiveness and inclusion bottlenecks to creating middle-class jobs and strengthening women’s participation in the economy.”

The report recommends a four-pronged reform strategy to address these jobs-related challenges:

  • Mitigate employment losses by maintaining adequate job retention programs, social assistance, training, and reskilling programs until the recovery is stronger.
  • Boost productivity and middle-class jobs by promoting competition, investment, and trade.
  • Equip the Indonesian workforce to hold middle-class jobs by investing in education and training systems and programs to improve workers’ skills.
  • Bring more women into the labor force and reduce earning gaps between men and women by investing in child and elderly care and promoting private sector development in the care economy.

The Indonesia Economic Prospects Report is supported by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

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