Sustainability directors lack control

10th December 2012

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Individuals tasked with leading companies' sustainability efforts often do not have budgetary control over initiatives and are forced to play a more advisory role in decision making, according to analysts Verdantix

In its annual research into the work of sustainability leaders, Verdantix concludes that despite having responsibility for a broad range of issues, including energy use, corporate reporting and sustainable procurement, senior sustainability professionals have only “weak authority”.

Its poll of 250 chief sustainability officers and heads of sustainability reveals that less than 20% have autonomy over sustainability management and reporting decisions, with 36% sharing responsibility and 28% restricted to providing advice.

Meanwhile, more than one-quarter of those surveyed revealed that they had no involvement in their company’s decisions on water stewardship, supply chain sustainability or sustainability risk management.

When it comes to budgets, just 23% have total control over finances for corporate sustainability reporting, 20% for sustainability management systems and only 12% have sole responsibility for energy management.

The survey also asked participants about future sustainability budgets, finding that, on average, companies will be increasing spending on environmental efforts by 5-7% in 2013. The figure is significantly lower than the 16% growth in sustainable business spending that Verdantix predicted in a report in February.

“Only 11% of heads of sustainability anticipate increasing spend by more than 10% in 2013 compared to 2012,” confirmed Patricia Satkiewicz, industry analyst at Verdantix and author of the report.

“Forty-six per cent of the 250 budget holders expect their spend on sustainability to increase by up to 10% in 2013, 39% face flat budgets and 4% will receive less cash than in 2012.”

When asked what the priority improvement areas will be next year, energy management tops the list, with respondents saying that reporting and supply chain sustainability will also be “very important”. Water use, however, was not ranked as a key issue to tackle next year.


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