Sustainable Business Poll 2012
31 October 2012 at 11:20 am
The most important leadership challenge facing business today is the integration of sustainability into core business functions, according to a major global poll.
The results of the "BSR/GlobeScan State of Sustainable Business Poll 2012" outline the progress that business has made on sustainability challenges over the past 20 years and the areas where business is likely to make the most progress over the next 20 years.
Almost two-thirds (62%) of respondents selected the integration of sustainability into the core of business as a key focus in the short-term and one that will help fast-forward long-term progress on core sustainability issues.
BSR President and CEO Aron Cramer said when BSR was founded, collaboration between companies and NGOs was in its infancy. Distrust and suspicion defined relations between the two sectors.
“Twenty years on, it is widely accepted that companies and NGOs often, though certainly not always, share common interests, and that their complementary skills can be powerful levers for progress,” he said.
The Poll found that significant progress is perceived to have been made over the past 20 years on sustainability reporting, and this is also perceived to be the area where most future progress will be made.
Health and safety and sustainability reporting are the two areas in which respondents believe business has made the most significant progress over the past 20 years.
Two of the areas in which respondents believe business has made the least progress, sustainable consumption and public policy, are areas that appear to be the greatest challenges for future progress as well.
Respondents expect human rights, workers’ rights, and climate change to be the focus of their organisation’s sustainability efforts over the next year.
Energy management in operations is overwhelmingly seen as the main priority in carbon reduction strategies with seven-in-ten (71%) respondents reporting energy management as the main priority followed by working with supply chain and products waste and recycling.
The main challenges for climate sustainability relate to effectively coordinating business units.
“The belief that the public currently has little trust in business continues, despite some moderation in perceived levels of distrust,” Cramer said.
“Companies can build trust by being increasingly transparent about business practices and by measuring and demonstrating positive social and environmental impacts.
“The areas where business is deemed to be showing the greatest leadership is in measuring and demonstrating social and environmental impacts and responding promptly and effectively to accidents and quality issues.”
Sustainability reporting is also perceived to be one of the areas in which business has made the most progress over the past 20 years, and the area in which the most progress is expected over the next 20 years.
“The concept of shared value has gained traction with many business leaders in recent years. The debate over whether this term usefully describes the sustainability agenda has obscured a more important question: How to make the most of shared responsibility and shared influence?,” Cramer said.
Cramer said in this light, partnerships fill a crucial gap, providing global solutions to questions that national governments alone don’t have the jurisdiction to address.
“The Global Reporting Initiative, for example, has developed a de facto international standard for corporate responsibility reporting with speed and quality governments never could have matched.
“But like many aspects of the sustainability agenda, partnerships have become mainstream without (yet) contributing systemic solutions. Too many partnerships remain one-off demonstration projects, and not enough multistakeholder initiatives have captured their potential for large-scale change,” he said.
The challenge ahead is to achieve the kind of scale and speed needed to accelerate progress. We need partnerships that match the architecture of our decentralized world.
“The next 20 years belong to nimble networks that leverage diverse skills, constituencies, and perspectives.
BSR is a global sustainably business strategy consultancy. The BSR/GlobeScan State of Sustainable Business Poll 2012 was conducted between September 2012. A total of 556 professionals from BSR member organisations completed the survey. The the Poll interviewed representatives from business, NGOs, government, and academia, representing Africa, Asia/Pacific, Europe, Latin America and North America.