Senior leadership key to sustainable business modelNovember 2013
Senior leadership is the most critical driver of sustainability within a business, finds a new report. Nearly half of businesses (44%) believe engagement with business leaders will be the most important factor in successfully implementing a sustainability strategy over the next three years. Additionally, at board level, 28% have periodic meetings addressing sustainability, but only 18% of companies have directors who assess the success of sustainability initiatives.
These are the findings of Sustainability Insights: Learning from Business Leaders, a study commissioned by Coca-Cola Enterprises(CCE) and developed by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).
“What we are seeing now is a real shift to mainstream sustainability-related initiatives in Europe. Companies are learning how to better integrate this into their businesses profitably. There is still a lot of room to improve but this is a profoundly positive change,” said Brian Gardner, senior editor at the Economist Intelligence Unit.
The research identifies the need to build a stronger business case to convince the wider European business community of the value of putting sustainability at the heart of its operations. While 52% of companies have been able to maintain their sustainability agenda despite the economic downturn, almost half (44%) of respondents report that the biggest barrier to implementing a sustainability strategy is perceived high costs, coupled with a lack of belief in ROI.
For those companies that recognize the value of sustainability, the benefits they cite include differentiation from competitors (32%) and enhanced stakeholder engagement (29%). While only one in five (21%) cite boosted profits as a key benefit of their sustainability endeavours.
Leading companies are increasingly turning to collaboration to maximize resources and intelligence, said the report. Nearly a third of businesses (32%) now work with competitors to seek out ideas for sustainability innovation, and a similar number (27%) work with NGOs and civil society. Over the next three years, businesses say that partnerships will be important contributors to driving sustainability success.
More than a quarter of companies (28%) believe technological innovation will also drive the success of their sustainability strategy in the next three years. Additionally, 61% say that technological developments contribute to sustainability-related innovations, and 41% say they’ve successfully harnessed technology to improve their environmental impact.
“We are proud of the progress we have made on our own sustainability journey, but the next era of sustainable business will be led by more meaningful collaboration,” said John F. Brock, chairman and chief executive officer at CCE.
“Business leaders need to embrace disruptive new approaches to sustainability – both within our own organizations and through our value chains. We need to advocate this among the European business community to create breakthroughs in sustainable business.”
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