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Sustainability will define world’s leading firms

A survey of over 1,000 experts shows that the leading companies of the next decade will be defined by how they integrate sustainability into their business model, with Unilever ranked at the top.

A survey of over 1,000 experts shows that the leading companies of the next decade will be defined by how they integrate sustainability into their business model, with Unilever ranked at the top. 

The findings come from consultancy firms GlobeScan and SustainAbility as part of their annual survey of environmental experts in government, NGOs, and other institutions from 79 different countries. 

“The attributes that experts believe will matter the most over the next decade are integrating sustainability values, demonstrating a clear vision and fostering transparency”, the report reads. 

An integrated sustainability strategy was considered more important than other key issues such as social responsibility and carbon neutral, renewable energy or zero waste goals.

Unilever

When asked which organisations came to mind as leaders in sustainability over the past two decades, the most cited was consumer goods giant Unilever for the seventh year in a row. 

Paul Polman, chief executive at Unilever, has previously stated that sustainability was driving “stronger and faster growth” at the company. It has also driven significant efficiency savings, with more than €200 million saved in 2014 alone. 

Other companies cited by the experts included outdoor clothing company Patagonia, carpet manufacturer Interface, IKEA, M&S, Tesla and Nestle.

Sustainability metrics

The report argues that companies should put sustainability at the core of their business to compete at the top, adding that ‘sustainability metrics’ should have just as much leadership focus as ‘financial metrics’.

Eric Whan, director of GlobeScan, said: “A handful of companies with powerful visions and values have won more share of mind among experts in recent years. Meanwhile, it’s becoming harder for others to breakthrough, even though many are making great progress - [but] this is no reason to stop.”