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CEOs report frustrated ambition when it comes to sustainability



A survey of CEOs has found that whilst business leaders are committed to reorienting their companies to be more sustainable, they feel constrained by current market structures, incentives and expectations.

Just 38% of CEOs felt that they are currently able to accurately quantify the business value of their consumer’s sustainability initiatives.

The UN Global Compact-Accenture CEO Survey 2013 is based on insights from over 1,000 CEOs across 103 countries and 27 industries.

Encouragingly, 84% of survey participants believe that business should lead the efforts to define and deliver sustainable business goals. However, only a third report that business is making sufficient efforts to address global sustainability challenges.

Many would now welcome government action to reshape market rules. But before taking this step, business leaders should recognise that even in todays imperfect markets, high performing companies do manage to combine commercial and sustainable success, said Sander van’t Noordende, Group CEO of Accenture Management Consulting.

These companies are harnessing sustainability as an opportunity for growth, innovation and differentiation, and demonstrate that sustainable business is good business.

Survey participants said they are seeing growing engagement from investors but still do not see the investment community as an influential voice in guiding their approach to sustainability.

Just 12% of CEOs regard investor pressure as among their chief motivators on sustainability and 23% see investors as an important stakeholder in guiding their approach.

As ethical investment becomes more mainstream, CEOs are likely to take investor pressure more seriously.

Less than a third of CEOs believe that their company’s share price currently includes value directly attributable to sustainability initiatives. However, 69% believe that investor interest will become an increasingly important factor.

Further reading:

‘Serious and urgent’ reform needed to overcome increasing business short-termism

34% of investors want their money to help build a sustainable economy 

‘Sceptical’ politicians and financial crisis both factors in UK climate lethargy 

63% of UK investors want to be offered sustainable options


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