Survey: Sustainability Strategies Still Important

A global survey of corporations show that one-half of businesses polled lack a sustainability strategy. Those with a strategy are more likely to be focused on improving perceptions and responding to increasing regulations rather than meeting social needs or generating revenue opportunities.

CEOs made up the majority of survey respondents, and although less than half reported having a strategy, 55 percent said sustainability will grow in importance and require increased resources and attention.

The survey was developed by The Vandiver Group, Inc., and sponsored by Pinnacle Worldwide. The results represent companies on six continents, 25 countries, and 40 industries. Of those that provided annual revenues, 18 percent had revenues from $10 million to $100 million; 9 percent were at $100 million to $1 billion, and 13 percent were at $1 billion or more. The results also show that companies are more focused on perception (7.1 on a 10-point scale) than revenue growth (rated 6 on the same scale). Meanwhile, companies rated reducing consumption and increasing pollution control as more important (7.1 and 6.6 out of 10, respectively) than meeting social needs (5.28 out of 10 points) as drivers of their sustainability strategies.

The study found that nearly one-third of businesses are developing a sustainability strategy, and just less than one-half already have an existing strategy. Six percent of respondents characterized their company as a "recognized leader" in sustainability. The survey found that larger companies were slightly more likely than smaller companies to have strategies and staff dedicated to the area of sustainability. An overwhelming 75 percent of respondents said sustainability is either "an important part of our organization's corporate strategy," or said they expect the topic "to become increasingly important in the future."

"With greening and environmental stewardship in the public spotlight, The Vandiver Group and PWW wanted to measure how sustainability is being seen in the business world," said Donna Vandiver, president and chief executive officer of The Vandiver Group, Inc. and president-elect of PWW.

"With most companies focused on pollution reduction or increased efficiency of resource use, moving beyond greening is a way for companies to differentiate themselves and create value in an increasingly cluttered 'green' environment," said John Osthus, sustainability practice leader for The Vandiver Group. "The results point out an opening for companies to innovate at the intersection of social needs, the environment, and the bottom line. That's important, because there is increasing pressure on food supplies, energy availability, and critical natural resources, including water. We need new technologies and new communication strategies to address real problems, and less misinformation and misguided policy around environmental issues."

According to Stuart Hart, Ph.D., Samuel C. Johnson Chair in Sustainable Global Enterprise at Cornell University, sustainability is a "tremendous revenue opportunity" and a chance for businesses to lead vitally important environmental and social improvements at the same time.

To see the complete results, visit http://www.pinnacleww.com/whatsnew/20080605-Sustainability_Report.pdf.

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