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North America ‘Behind Other Regions’ in Sustainability Integration

North American companies are still lagging considerably in the integration of sustainability when compared to their counterparts in other regions of the world, according to early findings from a survey conducted by MIT Sloan Management Review and the Boston Consulting Group.

Compared to companies in other countries, North American firms have the lowest rate of sustainability-focused business model innovation and the fewest business model innovators who said that “sustainability activities added to their profit,” according to the study.

Australia and New Zealand has the highest rate of business model innovators who said that sustainability activities added to their profit. Africa has the highest rate of business model innovation, the study shows.

Developing countries in general are increasing their commitment to sustainability at the highest rate, MIT says.

Energy scarcity and price volatility was the sustainability was named most critical by every country and every region. Issues concerning waste and access to raw materials were roughly tied for second place, on average.

The full MIT/BCG survey results will come out in February.

In the last edition of the survey, two-thirds of corporate leaders said management attention to and investment in sustainability rose from 2010 to 2011, and two-thirds also said sustainability is necessary for competitiveness – up from 55 percent a year before.

In other survey results released this week, 47 percent of executives said they believe that acting on sustainability issues decreases profits, and that they will not need to make significant changes in their business operations to combat resource scarcity until 2018. The Carbon Trust, which carried out the survey, said this indicated that companies are sleepwalking into a resource crisis.

According to research released in April 2011 by PR firm Gibbs & Soell, 88 percent of executives report that their company is “going green” but only 29 percent believe a majority of businesses are doing the same.

The Sense and Sustainability poll of 302 Fortune 1000 executives 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.

In May 2011, results of a survey by consultants Accenture showed that 72 percent of C-level executives in the US, UK and China believe that the benefits of their sustainability initiatives have exceeded expectations. Of those polled, 42 percent said the sustainability programs had lowered costs, 41 percent said they improved brand equity, and almost half said they had raised stakeholders’ trust in their companies.

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