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Executives Say They’re Improving Environment – But Say Most Other Companies Aren’t

Nearly nine out of ten executives – 88 percent – report that their company is “going green”, but only 29 percent believe a majority of businesses are doing the same, according to a survey.

The Sense and Sustainability poll (pdf) of 302 Fortune 1000 executives, by public relations firm Gibbs & Soell, also found that 75 percent of executives say that their company has people responsible for sustainability or “going green” initiatives, up from 69 percent in 2010. The survey defined “going green” as “improving the health of the environment by implementing more sustainable business practices, and/or offering environmentally friendly products or services.”

More than one out of ten (11 percent) executives said there is a C-suite or senior level function specifically and solely dedicated to “going green” initiatives, compared to 12 percent last year. Nineteen percent said their company has a C-suite or other senior level position that incorporates sustainability or “going green” into a broader job description such as chief technology officer, chief operations officer or director of public affairs, up from 15 percent last year.

And 17 percent report that there is a team of individuals whose jobs are specifically and solely dedicated to sustainability, up from 13 percent in 2010. These year-over-year changes are not statistically significant but suggest a possible upward trend that Gibbs & Soell will seek to verify with future surveys, the firm said.

In the survey, business leaders identified customer demand (42 percent), the desire to help reduce or reverse global climate change (34 percent), and directives from management and investors (31 percent) as the top reasons for their company going green. Only 11 percent said their company’s motivation is to respond to pressure from non-government organizations (NGOs).

Executives cited the top barriers to more businesses going green as: insufficient return on investment (70 percent, down from 78 percent in 2010); consumers’ unwillingness to pay a premium for green products or services (66 percent, down from 71 percent); and difficulty in evaluating sustainability across a product life cycle (44 percent, down from 45 percent).

The survey also polled 2,031 members of the public, and found that a plurality of both consumers (50 percent) and executives (53 percent) believe that only “some” businesses are committed to sustainability. Only 17 percent of consumers believe that a majority of businesses are committed to going green.

Last year’s survey found that only 16 percent of U.S. consumers and 29 percent of Fortune 1000 executives believe that a majority of businesses are committed to sustainability.

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