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CEOs Say Sustainability Crucial to Success

A new survey of CEOs by the United Nations Global Compact and Accenture found that 93 percent see sustainability as crucial to their future success. The report, “A New Era of Sustainability” interviewed more than 750 chief executives from almost 100 countries. Of these, 72 percent said that strengthening their brand, trust and reputation with consumers was the primary driver behind sustainability initiatives. Concerns about climate change were one of the most common voiced by CEOs, with 66 percent saying it was a critical development issue, behind education (72 percent). The results represent a significant shift from a similar survey Accenture  conducted just two years ago which found that most businesses did not consider climate change a significant priority. The shift in priorities has been echoed in other surveys of business leaders as well.

The survey also found widespread agreement that sustainability will cease to be a separate concern from business profitability, and will instead become fully integrated into the business strategy of the company, leading to a broader sense of what value entails that incorporates non-financial metrics. Eighty-one percent of CEOs said their companies have fully imbedded sustainability issues in the strategy and operations of their companies, compared to just 50 percent in 2007.

However, although the vast majority of CEOs agree that sustainability should be embedded throughout their subsidiaries (91 percent) and supply chain (88 percent), far fewer report that their company is already doing so (59 percent and 54 percent, respectively). Forty-nine percent of CEOs cite complexity of implementation across functions as the most significant barrier to implementing an integrated, company-wide approach to sustainability. Competing strategic priorities is second with 48 percent.

A majority of respondents, 54 percent, said that fully integrating sustainability issues across their businesses is less than a decade away, while 80 percent believe reaching that goal is less than 15 years away. Eighty-six percent of CEOs said “accurate valuation by investors of sustainability in long-term investments” is a necessary first step to reaching a tipping point in sustainability.

Meanwhile, 91 percent of CEOs report that their company will employ new technologies (e.g., renewable energy, energy efficiency, information and communication technologies) to address sustainability issues over the next five years.

Despite the broad consensus in the importance in sustainability, variation existed between industries. While every automotive CEO believed sustainability and environmental concerns were important or very important for the future success, that figure dropped to 81 percent of CEOs in the communications industry, with only 22 percent of communications CEOs responding that sustainability issues were “very important.”

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4 thoughts on “CEOs Say Sustainability Crucial to Success

  1. This is outstanding. I taught Ennvironmental Science for a number of years at a college in Miami and never thought I would see the day that corporate values truly embrace their place in the environmental landscape.

    This holds promise if corporations can move beyond “saying” sustainability is important to actually implementing measures that lead to tangible results.

  2. The understanding that sustainability is an important piece of core business strategy is a position that has taken years to work its way into mainstream boardrooms. Including environmental responsibility in all aspects of a company is now a financial imperative that cannot be ignored. As more businesses take action, we are able to witness their increased customer loyalty, the access they gain to new markets and the economic rewards they receive. Organizations that hold onto the idea that sustainability is an island will fall further behind their competitors as the world economy transitions to a new business model based on social responsibility, environmental sustainability, and financial feasibility. This report by two well respected organizations will inspire companies to continue their journey toward fully incorporating sustainability across their entire business. It should also be a wakeup call for the few remaining companies that treat sustainability with less importance than is deserves.

  3. Companies are starting to realize that their own sustainability is dependent on their actions towards the environment. It boggles the mind how many continue to play status quo and risk life for higher profit.

  4. It has become evident that global sustainability is crucial for the future. There are many easy ways that all organizations can take a step forward with their sustainability efforts. One of those ways is through properly channeling of their waste streams to vendors and recyclers. It sounds obvious, but the practice of doing so can be complicated and time consuming. The good news is that there are new technologies that allow these businesses to do so with little effort on their part. ExchangeBase offers organizations a management tool to catalogue, transact, and report on waste streams. As more technologies and solutions emerge such as ExchangeBase and the recent collective efforts of Village Green Global and Epicor Software Corporation, who is creating a management solution for carbon emissions, incorporating sustainability into corporate goals will become achievable in a very short period of time.

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