Survey: CEOs see opportunities within sustainability, but not immediate benefits



Two-thirds of global chief executives believe that businesses are not doing enough to address global sustainability challenges, according to a new UN report.

The survey, of 1000 CEOs from 103 countries and working in 27 industries, also found that top executives don’t currently see the investment community as an influential voice in their approach to sustainability.

Only 12% of CEOs think of investor pressure as one of their chief motivators on sustainability, although 69% think that investor interest will become an increasingly important factor. 

Ninety-three per cent said they consider environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues to be important to the future of their business, while 79% said that they provide a competitive advantage in their industry.

Meanwhile, 84% said businesses should be leading the way in addressing sustainability, but the report lists shrinking financial resources, customer ambivalence, and failing to make the business case as barriers to progress since the previous study in 2010.

Peter Lacy, managing director of Accenture Sustainability and Strategy Services in the Asia Pacific region, and lead of the study, said, “CEOs are clearly disappointed that markets have not aligned with sustainability in the way they had hoped three years ago and would like to see more action from governments to create an enabling environment. But the good news is that they have not lost faith in the role of business to drive sustainability,

“To move from incremental to large-scale transformation, businesses must accept that instead of persuading consumers about sustainability they must give them sustainable products and services they want at prices they can afford.

“And instead of showing investors the savings made from sustainability, they will have to demonstrate the positive business value it can generate.”

The respondents also suggested that more incentives and government leadership were required to advance the sustainability agenda. Eighty-five per cent want clearer policy and market signals to support green growth, with 43% pointing to subsidies and incentives.

 Further reading:

Public perception on where environmental responsibility falls is ‘skewed’

PRI study: ESG factors influence countries’ economic development and sovereign debt

What gets measured gets managed: sustainability in 21st century business

Public perception on where environmental responsibility falls is ‘skewed’

The Guide to Corporate Social Responsibility 2013


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