The latest edition of the Sustainability Survey reveals that a very large majority – some 88 percent of the 642 sustainability experts polled – see pressure for short-term financial results as a barrier to businesses becoming more sustainable.
The survey, conducted in December 2011, asked experts to say whether they considered a range of factors as being barriers to increased sustainability by businesses.
Although most of those polled identified multiple barriers, financial short-termism was seen as the most significant by some distance. The next most significant barriers were inappropriate regulations and low awareness of the business imperative, both cited by 65 percent of respondents. Low consumer demand was identified by 57 percent of respondents, followed by the lack of effective management tools, by 45 percent, and the lack of international standards, by 50 percent.
While financial short-termism was consistently identified as a barrier to sustainability by large majorities of all groups, the survey revealed that experts’ views differed on the importance of other factors according to their sector. Some 71 percent of experts within academia blamed low awareness of the business imperative for sustainability among business leaders compared to 58 percent of their corporate counterparts.
The full results of the latest poll will be released in a forthcoming U.N. Environment Programme report on the business case for the green economy, to be published later this year.
A previous edition of the Sustainability Survey, released in November 2011, found that 40 percent of sustainability experts believe sustainability is “inherently” incompatible with economic growth, while just 43 percent see no conflict.