Top management key to sustainability success

3rd October 2013


Related Topics

Related tags

  • Business & Industry ,
  • Ecodesign ,
  • Products ,
  • Employee engagement ,
  • Corporate governance

Author

IEMA

Senior leadership buy-in is key to companies' successful sustainability initiatives, say executives, though few firms give responsibility to directors

A survey of more than 330 company board members and executives from European businesses reveals that “senior leadership engagement” is likely to be the difference between success and failure of companies’ sustainability strategies, with the majority of respondents citing board-level support as being crucial to achieving sustainability objectives.

However, the research, which was commissioned by Coca Cola Enterprises, also confirms that just 22% of those polled worked for companies where a director held responsibility for sustainability goals, and only 26% say their firm assesses the success of sustainability initiatives across the whole business.

“This suggests that while companies recognise the critical involvement of senior leaders in advancing these strategies, few have managed to institutionalise sustainability concretely for their top executives,” the report states.

On a more positive note, technological developments, which are also cited by respondents as an important to future sustainability initiatives, are playing a key role in reducing firms’ environmental impacts.

Almost three-quarters of those polled report that their business is using new technologies in sustainability efforts, with 43% confirming that technology has helped to reduce impacts and 41% say technologies are being used to develop new, more sustainable products.

The research also demonstrates that companies are working with other organisations to tackle sustainability. Almost half (49%) of those polled say they are working with their suppliers; 27% with universities and NGOs; and 32% joining forces with competitors.

“We have to work internally and use our network of research and development centres, but we also want to be much more open to the outside world than we have been in the past,” commented Didier Roux, vice president of R&D and innovation at Saint-Gobain, the French building materials group.

Another key finding was that despite the challenging economic climate, and the belief that concerns over cost and rates of return are the biggest barriers to sustainability, more than half of the business executives surveyed agree that their company has maintained its commitment to reducing environmental impacts.

“Companies have largely stayed with their sustainability goals,” confirmed Brian Gardner, senior editor at the Economist Intelligence Unit, which carried out the research. “What we are seeing now is a real shift to mainstream sustainability related initiatives in Europe. Companies are learning how to better integrate this into their businesses profitably, but there is still a lot of room for improvement.”

Just 21% of respondents report that increased profits are one of the key benefits of their sustainability approach, with improved reputation being the most often cited benefit (61%) from pursuing a sustainability strategy. Almost one-third of respondents agree that sustainability helps to differentiate their business from competitors, and 29% say it helps to boost stakeholder engagement.


Transform articles

Agency prosecution brings largest fine for a water company

The Environment Agency has successfully prosecuted Southern Water for thousands of illegal raw sewage discharges that polluted rivers and coastal waters in Kent, resulting in a record £90m fine.

23rd September 2021

Read more

In Elliott-Smith v Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the claimant applied for judicial review of the legality of the defendants’ joint decision to create the UK Emissions Trading Scheme (UK ETS) as a substitute for UK participation in the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS).

30th July 2021

Read more

Thames Water has been fined £4m after untreated sewage escaped from sewers below London into a park and a river.

30th July 2021

Read more

None of England’s water and sewerage companies achieved all environmental expectations for the period 2015 to 2020, the Environment Agency has revealed. These targets included the reduction of total pollution incidents by at least one-third compared with 2012, and for incident self-reporting to be at least 75%.

30th July 2021

Read more

Global greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture are projected to increase by 4% over the next 10 years, despite the carbon intensity of production declining. That is according to a new report from the UN food agency and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which forecasts that 80% of the increase will come from livestock.

30th July 2021

Read more

Half of consumers worldwide now consider the sustainability of food and drink itself, not just its packaging, when buying, a survey of 14,000 shoppers across 18 countries has discovered. This suggests that their understanding of sustainability is evolving to include wellbeing and nutrition, with sustainable packaging now considered standard.

30th July 2021

Read more

Billions of people worldwide have been unable to access safe drinking water and sanitation in their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a progress report from the World Health Organisation focusing on the UN’s sixth Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 6) – to “ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by 2030”.

30th July 2021

Read more

New jobs that help drive the UK towards net-zero emissions are set to offer salaries that are almost one-third higher than those in carbon-intensive industries, research suggests.

5th July 2021

Read more

IEMA has today urged the UK government to focus on developing green skills and expertise across business, industry and civil society following the publication of an alarming report from the Climate Change Committee (CCC).

16th June 2021

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert