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2014 Sustainability & Innovation survey

Only 42% of Firms’ Boards Engaged in Sustainability Efforts

2014 Sustainability & Innovation surveyLess than half (42 percent) of companies say their boards of directors are actively involved in sustainability, according to a survey from MIT Sloan Management Review, The Boston Consulting Group and the UN Global Compact.

This is despite the fact that 87 percent of managers and executives say that boards of directors should be engaged in sustainability.

The survey and accompanying report, Joining Forces: Collaboration and Leadership for Sustainability, includes responses from more than 3,795 executives and managers from 113 countries.

It also found 90 percent of executives and managers say that sustainability requires collaboration.

Executives and managers cite various reasons for developing sustainable collaborations. Eighty-eight percent point to reputation management or brand building as “somewhat,” “quite” or “very” relevant when building sustainability initiatives. The next two most-cited reasons were the production of innovative products and services (82 percent of companies) and the transformation of markets towards sustainability (78 percent of companies).

The study points to numerous cases of companies’ collaborative and sustainable partnership — with NGOs, other for-profit firms, academics, governments and industry groups:

  • Netafim, Israeli-based company, became the world’s largest drip irrigation company while simultaneously addressing a key sustainability: water scarcity. Netafim introduced drip irrigation to agriculture. To expand and develop the concept the firm partnered with government agencies, academia, NGOs.
  • Outdoor apparel company Timberland works closely with the Leather Working Group, a multi-stakeholder organization, to ensure that the company sources leather from environmentally responsible tanneries. In addition to ensuring the sustainability of its supply chain, the partnership also reduced complexity in sourcing materials.
  • The Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC), an industry association that developed a sustainable supply chain for its members, facilitates collaboration and dialogue between companies, workers, governments, civil society, investors and academia. In doing so, it brings together companies across industries to pressure suppliers to develop a responsible global electronics supply chain.

In November 2014, the UN Global Compact launched a program to help move sustainability issues from the backroom to the boardroom.

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