New report updates sustainability ‘storm warning’ to business

13th June 2016


Organisations worldwide need to do more to address the combined force of global megatrends, according to an IEMA report on sustainability launched last month.

Organisations worldwide need to do more to address the combined force of global megatrends, according to an IEMA report on sustainability launched last month.

Beyond the Perfect Storm: the corporate sustainability challenge states that a business-as-usual approach is driving us past the planet’s environmental and social boundaries. However, it is not too late for businesses to move away from ‘sustainability trade-offs’ into a new age of innovation and resolution of sustainability challenges.

Building on IEMA’s 2014 report, Skills for a Sustainable Economy: preparing for the perfect storm, the new document includes an updated ‘storm warning’ to businesses. A series of business dependencies indicate the pressing need for business action and innovation, it says.

It calls for innovative business models and new ways to measure return on investment to enable businesses to transform, and highlights the need for organisations to make environment and sustainability professionals central to this change. The report also concludes work from IEMA’s 2014 White Paper, Defining Corporate Sustainability, providing focus and clarity for the profession on key definitions, terms and sustainability descriptors.

Nick Blyth (pictured), IEMA’s policy lead and the report’s author, said that unless a transformative switch away from short-term thinking could be introduced, businesses, individually and collectively, would be unable to reap the rewards. ‘Organisations can transform and mature towards the ambition of the truly sustainable business, but they need to establish a long view and look way beyond the “perfect storm”,’ he said. ‘The urgency is clear but so too is the opportunity with very real tangible, financial and reputational benefits for those organisations at the vanguard.’

Findings from a survey by IEMA, which are included in the report, indicate that sustainability roles are developing and practitioners are actively enabling business transformation programmes. It also reveals that the profession is maturing, with sustainability professionals now receiving a more positive than negative response to their work. More than 60% of respondents said they viewed corporate sustainability as a ‘change process where the organisation seeks to understand material issues, impacts and dependencies in order to improve and transform their organisation.’

Blyth said the report showed that organisations were at a critical juncture: ‘There is no doubt that some businesses are further on in their journey to sustainability than others. The innovations being spearheaded by such businesses are inspiring and show what can be achieved when a long-term horizon is used. Many more need to follow suit. Beyond the Perfect Storm captures this vision and encapsulates what is possible.’

Visit iema.net to download a free copy of the report.

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