Study reveals generational gap in attitudes towards business and sustainability

1st October 2014

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  • Business & Industry ,
  • Management ,
  • Employee engagement ,
  • Corporate governance ,
  • Stakeholder engagement


Rebecca Holmes

Future business leaders have higher expectations of the role business should play in sustainability, according to a survey published today.

The poll, by Coca-Cola Enterprises (CCE) with Cranfield University’s Doughty Centre for Corporate Responsibility and the Financial Times, shows a difference in attitude between the views of today’s chief executives and recent graduates of MBA and MSc courses across Europe.

Both current leaders and the next generation agree that a business’ profit and the ability to provide shareholder value are the best barometers of business success today, the research found.

However, while the overwhelming majority of current CEOs feel that profitability and shareholder value will remain key in the future, 80% of the future leaders see the impact a company has on the environment and society as more important indicators of business success in coming years.

They survey also revealed different attitudes to current performance, with 86% of CEOs believing that businesses already have a social purpose, while only 20% of future leaders believe this to be true.

The two groups also differ in opinion about the barriers to businesses combining social purpose with profit. Two-thirds of CEOs (66%) view external factors, such as government policy and regulation, as barriers, while 55% of future leaders cite internal factors, such as current management attitudes.

John Brock, chair and CEO at CCE said: “Today’s leaders play an essential role in integrating environmental and social issues into strategic decision making, but future generations have even higher expectations of business.”

Some 70% of CEOs said that prioritising social purposes in business ensures its survival, while over half of future leaders identified key returns as more engaged employees, increased innovation and trust in business.

Professor David Grayson, director at the Doughty Centre, said: “By developing clearly defined strategies and identifying new, disruptive approaches now, businesses can better ensure success and relevance in the future.”


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