Natura, Nestlé, Nike, Puma, Ricoh and Unilever are the only firms in a study of the world's leading companies to have taken steps to overhauling their business plans to favour sustainable growth, according to Deloitte

The consultancy firm examined the sustainability strategies of 65 businesses in 10 industries that are members of the UN Global Compact as part of its 2012 zero-impact growth monitor, which assesses companies’ readiness for a “green and inclusive economy”.

All 65 companies were assessed and scored on a 0–5 scoring model against 18 components relating to their vision and strategic ambition, as well as their environmental and social strategies and goals. Eight of the 18 components that make up the monitor are environmental aspects, ranging from emissions and energy to logistics and supply chain, and from biodiverisity to water consumption.

Consumer goods companies, such as Diageo, Lego, Nestlé, PepsiCo and Unilever, on average scored highest, with a 2.9 score, while utilities, a group that includes RWE and Vattenfall, scored the lowest, with an average of 2.05.

The technology industry, which includes Fuji, Philips, Ricoh, SAP and Siemens, scored highest against the environmental indicators, with an average score of 2.8.

By contrast, the financial sector, including UK business Aviva and Spanish bank BBVA, scored lowest, averaging just 2.03. Deloitte says that environmental goal setting in most companies is more consistent towards supporting their broad sustainability strategies than social goal setting.

Overall, the consultancy found that the majority of firms remain vague about their strategic ambition in a world where business as usual is no longer an option, and companies that have proposed ambitious sustainability strategies often fail to effectively implement them.

“In quite a considerable number of cases an implementation gap arises between the definition of overall strategies and targets and their implementation,” says Deloitte.

By contrast, the six trailblazing companies are described as having not only set measurable and ambitious mid- to long-term targets (to at least 2020), but to have also embedded policies to ensure they minimise their negative impacts.