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So, it’s polling day in the General Election 2017, will environmental issues decide it?

Polling station-min

In a word, no. People are much more concerned with the here and now in the General Election 2017.

Much has been written and said about the relative lack of focus on environmental issues in the various party manifestos (with the exception of the Greens, but then you’d expect that really).

Don’t politicians care about protecting the environment?

Well, of course they do. But their political antennae are firmly attuned to the issues that the masses are most preoccupied with – because that’s where the votes are.

And what are those issues?

According to the most recent research by Ipsos MORI:

• Brexit remains the single most important issue

• 61% consider the NHS to be one of the biggest issues facing Britain

• Concern about education reaches highest level since September 2006

This doesn’t mean that the electorate don’t care about pollution, climate change, waste, air quality and wildlife, it’s just that these and other environmental issues aren’t generally worrying people on a day-to-day basis. What is worrying them are the things that affect them in their daily lives right now or could reasonably be expected to someday soon.

Take a look at this chart from Ipsos MORI which shows how people have reported their view on environmental issues over time.


Ipsos MORI issues index environmental


What this shows is that, in general, Brits worry about environmental issues when they are more immediate – and when they are visible. The key inflection points in the chart, like the winter flooding, make that clear. If there were to be a very major pollution incident in UK waters, that closed beaches in Cornwall and Devon during the main summer holiday season, you can bet that there would be an upsurge of concern reflected in polling.

Politicians seeking election today will know this, and that’s why the party manifestos might look a bit thin on environmental pledges. But it doesn’t for a second mean that the next government, regardless of whether that’s Conservative, Labour, or any of the other smaller parties (or a coalition thereof) won’t continue to take environmental issues seriously – because, in part, the job of the government is to look at the bigger picture, identify the things that could one day be a threat, and to navigate around them in the best interest of the population as a whole, no matter how ignorant of those threats individual residents might be.

Environmental issues aren’t going to decide the colour of tomorrow’s government – health, education, security and the state of the economy will do that – but they will still feature prominently in government policy and its legislative agenda during the next parliament, and that will mean businesses need to keep scanning the horizon to see what changes to expect next.

Want to keep up-to-date with all the in’s-and-out’s of changing government policy on environmental issues and how it will affect your sustainability and CSR efforts? Just ask!

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