Over the decade since the GGEI’s first publication, we have periodically surveyed our database of experts on their opinions about national green performance. Our approach to these surveys is described in detail below. This database of 5,000+ experts working globally on the topics defining the GGEI can also be leveraged by clients seeking insight on expert perceptions of different green economy topics, green investment opportunities, and national-level climate policies.
In 2020, we conducted an internal survey with the goal of understanding what experts believe are the best approaches to unlocking a green breakthrough in the 2020s. Between January 28th and April 1st of 2020, we asked global experts working on climate change, sustainable finance, corporate social responsibility (CSR) and the environment a question: how can policy, markets, and people better align to realize a green breakthrough in the 2020s? The online survey contained 11 total questions and received approximately 1,980 responses. The questions were divided into two main sections: a look back at what we can learn from the 2010s and a look forward at new approaches to accelerate change in the 2020s. Access the results here.
The perception survey for the 2018 GGEI was conducted from April 23, 2018 through July 2, 2018, and polled targeted respondents on how they assessed national green performance on the four main dimensions of leadership & climate change, efficiency sectors, markets & investment, and the environment. Since its first publication in 2010, Dual Citizen LLC has developed targeted lists for each of these four dimensions with qualified practitioners working globally on issues relevant to green economy and green growth.
Independent of the actual survey results, this work has revealed valuable insights into the topic. One such insight is the high level of uncertainty surrounding the definition of ‘green economy’ across geographies, sectors and particularly between different types of organizations and institutions (i.e. international organizations, civil society, the private sector etc). This finding reinforces the need for a framework like the GGEI to better understand information flows and how perceptions vary about different aspects of the green economy.
Another related insight suggests that while numerous individuals and institutions work on sectoral or thematic components of the green economy, there are only a few with a dedicated focus on knowledge generation and country-level capacity building in the green economy per se (the UNEP Green Economy Initiative, the Green Growth Knowledge Platform, the Green Economy Coalition and the Global Green Growth Institute are four exceptions). This reality mandated a segmentation of the 2018 GGEI perception survey into four distinct groups of respondents, defined by the proximity of their professional work to the four main dimensions of the GGEI. This approach ensures more informed responses such that an individual with knowledge about sectoral performance in the green economy (i.e. buildings, transport, tourism and energy) wasn’t also asked to rank environmental performance in areas like agriculture or forestry where they lack a similar level of expertise.
The information below is meant to provide further background and transparency on the GGEI perception survey and results, as well as offering further explanation about why perceptions are important to measure and understand along with green economic performance.
In a broad sense, the design of the GGEI perception survey mirrors that of the performance index. For each of the main GGEI dimensions (i.e. leadership & climate change, efficiency sectors, markets & investment, the environment), the GGEI survey aims to capture perceptions of the same value measured in the performance index. For example, while that GGEI performance index measures the climate change performance of each country, the GGEI perception survey asks respondents to select up to five countries that in their estimation, perform best on this particular issue.
When designing a survey like this comparing perceptions with performance, it is important to ask survey questions in a manner that best corresponds to the value being measured. For example, if the performance measure captures national performance at a distinct moment in time, but the perception survey asks respondents to rank progress over time, there is a strong likelihood that these results will differ. Or, if the performance measure calculates performance of a variable that is understood to mean something else by respondents (e.g. there exist divergent interpretations globally of what defines ‘cleantech’), results will likely differ. In the case of the GGEI survey, we made our best effort to address these issues, as well as to follow the best practice survey design guidelines published through the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR).
Addressing Survey Bias
Perceptions, by definition, will always contain some bias. One main value proposition of the GGEI is to compare perceptions to performance and illuminate gaps so that our clients can better understand the strategies and tactics best suited to bridging them. That being said, there are some forms of bias that the GGEI works rigorously to eliminate. The first involves excluding members of the governments we poll by ensuring they are not included in our distribution list and removing any results with identifiable government email domains. A second involves working to make the respondents to our surveys as qualified as possible. This is important so that respondents do not rely upon generalized impressions when making their country selections, but instead reference actual experience. Lastly, we try to limit the number of responses from individuals who have provided input to the GGEI in past editions. This is important so that the GGEI doesn’t simply re-poll samples from prior years, but instead offers a new, randomized selection of practitioner perceptions in each successive survey.
Some indicators naturally suffer from positive and negative bias. In the case of the GGEI qualitative assessment of the head of state and media, the data likely suffer from a positive bias, meaning that most countries get a neutral or positive score. This could be explained by the fact that the term “green economy” is mainly used in a context when discussing new green initiatives and policies (and not when criticizing the lack of such).
Another example of bias has to do with GGEI countries that due to their official designation, may receive less recognition from survey respondents. The main example of this is Singapore, which due to its official status as a city-state may suffer from lower recognition in the GGEI survey, where respondents are asked to indicate the countries or nations that perform best.
The GGEI perception survey is online only, distributed primarily through email and list servs. Admittedly, this approach has its limitations. While on the one hand it allows for greater distribution and larger sample sizes, it limits the extent to which respondent perceptions can be better understood through follow-up questions and small focus groups. Enhancements like this can bring valuable insights to clients, and we explain more about these opportunities in the GGEI Consulting section.
The 2018 edition of the GGEI also employed extensive social media outreach, particularly through Twitter, to distribute the GGEI perception survey. We also conducted French and Spanish versions of the survey, and performed supplemental research to reach individuals living in countries where French or Spanish is the official language. This multi-language approach is a new development in 2018, and helps to broaden the responses and geographic diversity of the GGEI.
The GGEI perception survey is global in nature, polling thousands of practitioners working internationally with expertise in climate change, efficiency sectors, advocacy for green growth, cleantech markets and different environmental categories including agriculture, water, fisheries and forests. The 3,363 responses to the 2018 GGEI perception survey revealed the following geographic breakdown:
North America 19% – Europe 24% – Asia 19% – Latin America & Caribbean 19% – Africa 15% – Oceania 4%
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