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Accenture: 44% of Senior Execs say Sustainability ‘Critical’ to Business

Forty-four percent of senior executives say that sustainability is critical to their businesses, according to an Accenture report, and that figure rises to 64 percent in emerging markets.

The consulting firm surveyed 250 senior executives in the United States, Japan, Germany, France and the United Kingdom, as well as China, Brazil and India, about sustainable business and commercial growth.

Looking forward, 78 percent of respondents said that sustainability is vital to the future growth of their businesses. The only region where this percentage slips below 70 percent is Japan, on 63 percent, while it rises to 91 percent in emerging markets.

Other key findings:

  • Executives see customer demand as the primary driver of investment in sustainable initiatives;
  • Nearly twice as many respondents say their sustainability investment primarily aids growth, as say it drives cost cutting (41 percent versus 22 percent);
  • 49 percent say margins are lower on sustainable products and services;
  • Customers are not willing to pay more for sustainable products and services, according to 47 percent of respondents;
  • However, 60 percent of respondents do charge a premium for such products and services. These premiums are, on average, 19 percent.
  • Just over half (56 percent) agreed that it was more expensive to be a sustainable business.

Based on its findings, Accenture makes three recommendations to help companies keep up with market demand for sustainable products and services:

  • Companies should invest in capabilities such as analytics to improve their understanding and anticipation of fast-changing consumer expectations.
  • They should also build social media-based platforms to engage with consumers and to develop and test innovations with them.
  • Finally, companies should review operational and supply chain capabilities to identify opportunities for more optimal production and delivery of sustainable goods and services.

The U.N. Global Compact 2010 report conducted by Accenture found that while CEOs are placing sustainability at the core of their business strategies, many are struggling to implement them. CEOs say one of the most significant obstacles to execution is the complexity of integrating a company-wide approach to sustainability across different functions.

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