Business not doing enough on sustainability, say CEOs

The United Nations Global Compact, launched in 2004, is an initiative to encourage businesses worldwide to adopt sustainable and socially responsible policies, and to report on their implementation. Now the UNGC and Accenture Management Consulting have undertaken a survey of 1000 global CEOs to see how business leaders consider their community is doing to implement sustainability.

The top level findings include:

  • The global economy is on the wrong track, and business is not playing its part in forging a sustainable future.
  • Some 63% of CEOs expect sustainability to transform their industry within five years—and 76% believe that embedding sustainability into core business will drive revenue growth. But even as they make progress in embedding sustainability through their business they are constrained by market expectations, and are struggling to quantify and capture the business value of sustainability.
  • Many business leaders feel that given the structures, incentives and demands of the market, they have taken their companies as far as they can. While a few leading companies are deepening and intensifying their commitments on sustainability, others are growing skeptical that addressing global sustainability challenges will ever become critical to their business success within current economic systems and markets.
  • CEOs clearly recognize the scale of the global challenge—but may not yet see the urgency or the incentive for their own businesses to do more and to have a greater impact. This disconnect suggests that a gap persists between the approach to sustainability of the majority of companies globally—an approach centered on philanthropy, compliance, mitigation and the license to operate—and the approach being adopted by leading companies, focused on innovation, growth and new sources of value.
  • CEOs are clear that action must be justified against traditional measures of success. The more adept companies become at measuring and tracking their own sustainability performance, the more their frustration grows at an apparent inability to tie performance improvements and industry leadership to the fundamentals of business value beyond incremental gains. Signals from consumers are mixed; investor interest is patchy.
  • CEOs see two essential elements on the agenda for action. First, CEOs call for active intervention by governments and policymakers, in collaboration with business, to align public policy with sustainability at global, national and local levels, including hard measures on regulation, standards and taxation. In parallel, business leaders point to the need to learn from those companies already leading the way, harnessing sustainability as an opportunity for innovation and growth, delivering business value and sustainability impact at scale.
  • CEOs call for government intervention to align public policy with sustainability.

This fascinating 55 page report, which may hold some important clues for increasing business participation in implementation of sustainability, can be found at http://www.accenture.com/Microsites/ungc-ceo-study/Pages/home.aspx

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