In spite of the recent economic downturn, an overwhelming majority of corporate CEOs – 93 percent – say that sustainability will be critical to the future success of their
companies. Furthermore, CEOs believe that, within a decade, a tipping point could be reached that fully meshes sustainability with core business – its capabilities, processes and systems, and throughout global supply chains and subsidiaries.
These are among the key findings of a survey of 766 CEOs around the globe – the largest such research study of top executives ever conducted on the topic of sustainability – released today by the United Nations Global Compact and Accenture. In addition to an online survey, the study included extensive interviews with 50 of the world’s leading CEOs.
According to the survey, A New Era of Sustainability: UN Global Compact-Accenture CEO Study 2010, the global economic downturn did little to dampen corporate commitment to sustainability. In fact it seems to have done the opposite: 80 percent of the CEOs say the downturn has raised the importance of sustainability. As businesses address the challenges of the financial crisis, sustainability is being recognized as a source of cost efficiencies and revenue growth. Additionally, many companies view sustainability as a critical element in driving growth in new markets as
they look toward economic recovery.
The survey results indicate that businesses are taking sustainability more seriously. In a similar survey conducted in 2007, 50 percent of the CEO respondents said that sustainability issues had become part of their company’s strategy and operations. In the 2010 survey, that number jumped to 81 per cent.
While recognizing the scale and complexity of global challenges, many CEOs say there has been progress over the past three years in making the transition from developing a sustainability strategy to execution.
CEOs cited several barriers to achieving their sustainability goals, including:
CEOs also believe that several conditions must be met before sustainability can be fully integrated into a company’s core business, and that businesses need to take a leadership role in bringing them about. Business action will be required in five key areas: