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Sustainability has “escaped from its silo”

An inaugural survey of sustainability in business by the Ethical Corporation reveals that it has become a key strategic issue which is already driving sales and savings for the majority of respondents.

An inaugural survey of sustainability in business by the Ethical Corporation reveals that it has become a key strategic issue which is already driving sales and savings for the majority of respondents.

The report, State of Sustainability 2015, is the Ethical Corporation’s first attempt to gauge the current state of corporate sustainability across its global community of over 3,000 multinational companies. 

Around 1,500 professionals responded to the survey, mainly from UK and European companies. The respondents provided their opinions on the significance of sustainability in their business, how they are organising their sustainability activity, what budgets and returns are associated with it and what the future prospects are for the next five years. 

‘Majority convinced’

The report concludes that the majority of global companies are now “convinced of the value of sustainability” and are particularly focusing on embedding sustainability into their supply chains.

“The sustainability discipline has largely escaped from its silo and is now a vital aspect of strategic planning”, the report argues.

“This is especially true for supply chain management – arguably the area of greatest reputational and operational risk for modern multinationals operating in a globalised environment.”

Highlights

Key statistics from corporate respondents include:

  • 93 per cent said supply chain management is the top priority for sustainability operations
  • 89 per cent reported that sustainability is becoming an increasingly important part of business strategy
  • 69 per cent believed their CEO is convinced of the value of sustainability
  • 67 per cent reported that sustainability operations were driving cost savings
  • 49 per cent reported that sustainability operations were increasing revenues
  • 30 per cent believed sustainability will be a source of competitive advantage over the next five years
  • 15 per cent had a budget for sustainability initiatives in excess of $1 million (£650,000).

The report also reveals that there is significant room for improvement over the coming years, with only 39 per cent of respondents accurately measuring the return on investment from sustainability initiatives and only 21 per cent believing that their company is taking full advantage of the potential of sustainability.

‘Levers for change’

Ian Ellison, sustainability manager at Jaguar Land Rover and one of the respondents to the survey, said: “We can see from the report that the overwhelming majority of us now enjoy: a fully convinced CEO, sustainability as part of our business strategy and some form of reporting into the executive suite. These are powerful levers for change. 

“[However] we are not yet fully leveraging the potential that sustainability has to offer… To really engage with core business we need hard data and with 60 per cent [of respondents] feeling that they do not yet have accurate impact measures, this falls into the ‘must try harder’ category.”