Leaders eye sustainability

8th September 2014

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  • Corporate governance


Nathaniel Blackmore

New research by McKinsey reveals that business leaders are increasingly supporting sustainability initiatives, with many believing the issue is of growing importance to their company strategies.

The management consultancy polled more than 3,300 executives from around the world on the actions their companies are taking to address environmental, social, or governance issues, and the practices they use to manage sustainability.

Its report states that sustainability is becoming a more strategic and integral part of respondents’ businesses.

In past surveys, when McKinsey asked about companies’ reasons for pursuing sustainability, respondents most often cited cost cutting or reputation management. Now 43% of respondents report that their companies are seeking to align sustainability with their overall business goals, mission or values – up from 30% in the previous survey, in 2012.

McKinsey also reports that chief executives are now twice as likely as they were in 2012 to say sustainability is their top priority. Of the 13 core sustainability activities that McKinsey asked about, executives most often say their companies are cutting energy use (64%), reducing waste (63%), and managing their corporate reputations for sustainability (59%).

However, the survey results suggest that, as sustainability rises up corporate agendas, companies are finding it harder to capture its full value.

At companies already taking action, respondents most often cite challenges related to execution: the absence of performance incentives and the presence of short-term earnings pressure that is at odds with the longer-term nature of sustainability issues.

Accountability is also an increasing concern, with more than a third (34%) of executives reporting that too few people in their companies are accountable for sustainability.

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