Insights for the environment, Secondary Data, AI, and winter reading

Government Affairs and Professional Standards Newsletter | December 2021
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Date 1 December 2021
Author Srikar Govindaraju

Welcome to the December edition of the ESOMAR Government Affairs and Professional Standards Newsletter, curated for you as always by Claudio Gennaro and Srikar Govindaraju. This month we have a special extended piece on how the industry can tackle the climate crisis, the EDPB sharing their views on AI regulation, and an update on a key guideline consultation that's looking for your vital input.

Insights and the environment - how the sector can help save our planet

Recently the International Chamber of Commerce held their Make Climate Action Everyone's Business Forum, on how businesses can adapt to take greater action against climate change. As part of the conference, ESOMAR was invited to introduce the session “Demystifying the Intention-Action Gap,” alongside Steve Phillips, CEO of Zappi and Chair of the MRS Sustainability Council, and Natalie Lacey of Ipsos, who presented some fascinating findings on how consumers feel they can play their part in climate initiatives (stay tuned for their views on the ESOMAR website soon).

As an industry it can initially be difficult to see how the insights and analytics work carried out by ESOMAR members around the globe can have a significant climate impact. After all our sector doesn’t engage in intensive manufacturing, we don’t require large warehouses or logistics services, and we don’t generate large amounts of waste product. But think of all of the office space taken up by researchers around the world, the energy required to light and heat and cool those buildings, the land taken up that could otherwise be used as green space, and up until the COVID-19 crisis, the amount of international travel to conferences and clients.

Our industry, like any other, has its impacts upon the climate and our environment, but as the session explored, there are key things our sector can do to help this global challenge, as well as advantages that only we can provide to governments and businesses the world over.

A united front

Climate change was previously known under a different moniker, global warming, and the first word of that older term still rings true today – global. Climate change starts locally, but the impacts are global. Consequently, a global response is required if any sector is going to make meaningful changes in the future, and that’s where you as ESOMAR members bring a unique strength. With over 30,000 members spread across all six continents, and a strong sense of community, collaboration, and a willingness to engage in conversation, ESOMAR and its members are in a strong position to enact global initiatives that can take into account unique geographic factors when tackling the climate crisis.

Insights for good

It almost goes without saying, but insights have a vital role to play in the mission to save the climate. Without researchers understanding and analysing consumer views and behaviour, and using these insights to inform corporate and government actions, it is difficult for meaningful decisions to be made. Insights are vital to make key targeted policy decisions, and once these decisions are made, to analyse and improve upon the results to continually take steps towards reducing emissions, waste, and more. Consumers are more engaged than ever before, and want to take meaningful actions to play their part in tackling this crisis. They are wise to instances of “greenwashing,” when companies make surface level attempts to act environmentally conscious, and they seek clarity in areas such as food labelling and recycling options to make informed decisions with their purchases.

Informed decision making ultimately lies at the heart of this issue, for all sides involved, and the insights community is the best equipped to help deliver this key information.

A pledge for the future

ESOMAR is working alongside the MRS Sustainability Council to promote their industry wide Net Zero pledge. The aim is to unify the industry behind key goals to reduce emissions and environmental impact, and to enact global initiatives that ensure all corners of the world are working towards the same mission. This is especially important as different countries have different means available to play their part. Those with access to renewable energy suppliers can account for countries still reliant on coal and gas, countries with better online infrastructure can offset the emissions of those dependant on travel for in person research activities, and there are many more solutions that can be developed through global cooperation and discussion facilitated by ESOMAR and national associations. Stay tuned for more on this initiative, as well as community discussions where you can share your views and ideas.

What lies ahead...

While the future remains uncertain, the learnings from COP26 and the ICC Forum provide a pathway towards a more optimistic future. The insights sector, like all others, has a key part to play in the years to come, utilising and sharing expertise that can safeguard the health of our planet for generations to come.

If you have any ideas, would like more information about the Net Zero pledge, or would like to start a conversation about this topic, you can always reach out at


esomar artificial intellegence

EDPB weighs in on AI Regulation

During the last year the European Commission has presented a number of proposals as part of its digital and data strategies, such as the Digital Services Act (DSA), the Digital Markets Act (DMA), the Data Governance Act (DGA) and the Regulation on a European approach for Artificial Intelligence (AIR).

The European Data Protection Board has now adopted a statement addressing these proposals, expressing concern over the lack of protection for individuals’ fundamental rights and freedoms, and the possible risks of inconsistencies with the legislative framework. In its statement, the EDPB also considers that online targeted advertising should be regulated more strictly and calls for less intrusive forms of advertising that do not require any tracking of user interactions. The EDPB then urges the legislator to consider a phase-out leading to a future prohibition of targeted advertising and on the profiling of children online.

First of all, who is the European Data Protection Board?

The EDPB, is a European body in charge of ensuring the consistent application of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) among the Data Protection Authorities within the EU Member States. Its duty, in short, is to make sure that new regulations and directive are not in conflict with the GDPR.

What does it say about the AIR and why is it important?

In its statement, the EDPB considers that if not correctly amended, the AIR might negatively impact the fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals and lead to significant legal uncertainty that would eventually undermine the ultimate goal of the EU digital and data strategy of boosting innovation and economic growth.

What could be especially interesting for researchers is that the EDPB considers that the use of AI to infer emotions of a natural person is highly undesirable and should be prohibited, except for certain well-specified use-cases, namely for health or research purposes, subject to appropriate safeguards, conditions and limits.

Similarly, the EDPB recommends that the AIR should include a ban on any use of AI for automated recognition of human features in publicly accessible spaces. Interestingly, the EDPB doesn’t only call for a ban on face recognition, but explicitly includes other kind of biometric data, such as fingerprints, DNA, voice, keystrokes and other biometric and behavioural signals.

How will this impact the AI discussion?

The AIR is still working its way through the long and complex European legislative process, but it is notable that a body as senior as the EDPB is voicing concerns. While some legislators are pushing for blanket bans, and others call for more innovation friendly terms, there is a clear consensus emerging across the EU about the dangers of Artificial Intelligence in the wrong hands.

What remains to be seen is how other countries and regions follow suit, whether the EU develops a benchmark as with the GDPR, or whether other approaches are taken by markets such as the United States, China, India, or in regions such as South America or Africa. Needless to say, as AI enters more and more sectors, the impact on the insights sector will surely be felt in the years to come.

grbn guideline when processing secondary data for research

Secondary Data Guidance - have your say

ESOMAR and GRBN are seeking feedback on the final version of the upcoming Guideline on the use of Secondary Data, a key document that will guide researchers around the world in utilising datasets safely, ethically, and effectively.

As part of the drafting process a consultation has been launched to gather your views on the guideline, which will be running until January 13th 2022. The consultation seeks your thoughts on the content of the guideline, whether you think it provides clear guidance, sufficiently explains secondary data and the ethical responsibilities attached to it, and of course whether you think more could be added to make this guidance as useful and as informative as possible.

To find out more and have your say, simply follow the links below.

The Reading Nook

Looking for more to read after this newsletter? Find our list of recommended articles and books below.


Singapore's Tech-utopia dream is turning into a surveillance state nightmare
Robot dogs, flying taxis, apps for everything - Singapore may lead the world when integrating tech into daily life, but this article explores the darker side of a country fuelled by data and always pursuing tech driven solutions.

Ten ways to confront the climate crisis without losing hope
While our own experience during the ICC Forum was a positive one, research has shown that many people are feeling despondent about their part in the fight against climate change. This piece lays out ten ways you can still join the fight when all else seems lost.


Fake AI - Coming soon
With Artificial Intelligence being used to describe almost anything, this upcoming collection features pieces on "AI hype and pseudoscience" that try to set the record straight. Look out for chapters on Cheap AI, Who am I as data, and techno-solutionism.

Until next time

That's it for the newsletter this year! Until next time the team wishes you a safe, healthy, and happy festive season and new year, and we look forward to sharing more with you in 2022!

As always if you would like to get in touch, you can reach us at

Srikar Govindaraju
ESOMAR Staff, Senior Standards Programmes Coordinator at ESOMAR