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Global CEOs Remain Committed to Sustainability

30 October 2013 at 8:22 am
Lina Caneva
A global survey of CEOs including Not for Profit leaders across 103 countries, reveals that they are not satisfied with business progress in tackling global sustainability challenges.

Lina Caneva | 30 October 2013 at 8:22 am


Global CEOs Remain Committed to Sustainability
30 October 2013 at 8:22 am

A global survey of CEOs including Not for Profit leaders across 103 countries, reveals that they are not satisfied with business progress in tackling global sustainability challenges.

More than two thirds of chief executives – 67 percent – believe that business is not doing enough to address global sustainability challenges, according to a survey by the United Nations Global Compact and Accenture.

However the study found growing confidence from CEOs over the last decade that business can provide solutions to tackle global challenges in partnership with NGOs.

It says CEOs more readily acknowledge the role of collaboration and partnerships in meeting their ambitions on sustainability. “Business can lead the way and can maximize companies’ impact through close partnerships with governments, policymakers, industry peers, consumers and NGOs,” the study said.

“The changing role of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) has long been a focus of this study and of wider discussions on business efforts to advance sustainability.

“In 2010, one of the most striking findings of our survey was a decline in their perceived importance, with just 15% of respondents (from 27% in 2007) ranking NGOs among the most important stakeholders in influencing their approach to sustainability.

“This year, we see a further shift in perceptions of NGOs, as business leaders begin to see a convergence of sectors in new collaborations and partnerships to address sustainability issues.

“The apparent importance of NGOs in setting the agenda for sustainability remains unchanged, with just 15% of CEOs ranking them among their most important stakeholders. But while this may be an unwelcome challenge to NGO leaders, it is evident that CEOs see civil society playing an integral part in enabling companies to deliver on their ambitions for social and environmental impact.

“Some 78% of CEOs believe that partnerships and collaboration across sectors will be instrumental in the way that their company delivers positive social and environmental outcomes over the next five years.Some 70% see a need to take action through on-the-ground partnerships and projects to deliver sustainability outcomes; despite often patchy results in the past, business leaders are firmly committed to partnering with NGOs to engage more fully in the development agenda.

Dr. Y?lmaz Argüden, chairman of ARGE Consulting and chairman of the Global Compact Network Turkey said  “The sustainability of our future is the common responsibility of all of us: the governments, companies, NGOs and citizens of the world. Yet for all of us to work together, we need to build trust among all stakeholders.”

“This convergence of sectors—in which providing solutions to social and environmental challenges is not the preserve of single actors, whether corporate, government or from
civil society, but instead a constant shared commitment unconstrained by traditional, sector-specific roles—comes from an acknowledgment that each actor can bring its own resources, skills and understanding.”

“As business feels a greater responsibility to directly address sustainability challenges and begins to understand the long-term advantages and opportunities in doing so, many companies are realizing the shortcomings in their ability to deliver positive impact in the communities in which they operate,” the study said.

“Similarly, resource-constrained governments and NGOs are looking to business to provide capital investment, human resources and global reach to enable them to scale solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges.

“As the notion of convergence takes hold in the minds of business, government and civil society leaders, CEOs are beginning to see a transition toward long-term partnerships—not single issue, arm’s length cooperation, but genuine collaboration as issues and interests coincide in the innovation and provision of new solutions.

In addition to traditional public-private collaboration, business leaders said that they are equally willing to explore business-to-business, or “private-private,” partnerships: 54% of CEOs are already prepared to co-invest with other companies to make progress on sustainability issues.

The study said the partnerships, both within industries and across sectors, remain an emerging option: many NGOs are still skeptical of business involvement, and just 45% of CEOs report they have already seen tangible business opportunities and value arising from collaboration with NGOs.

“But in the context of business leaders’ frustration with the pace of change, and a recognition in civil society that greater resources and support will be required to accelerate progress against the Millennium Development Goals, CEOs retain their faith in the potential of new partnerships and business models, and they believe that convergence will be critical in designing new approaches to the world’s most intractable challenges.

Published in The UN Global Compact-Accenture CEO Study on Sustainability 2013: Architects of a Better World, the study also includes in depth interviews with 75 CEOs and an analysis of those companies that successfully combine sustainability leadership with market leading business performance.

As the UN Global Compact continues to see rapid growth, with almost 8,000 corporate participants, the study demonstrates broadening awareness on the part of global business of the opportunities presented by sustainability.

Fully 78 percent of surveyed CEOs see sustainability as a route to growth and innovation, and 79 percent believe that it will lead to competitive advantage in their industry. However, CEOs see the economic climate and a range of competing priorities creating obstacles to embedding sustainability at scale within their companies.

“As the CEO study reflects, the challenge at hand is to unlock the full potential of corporate sustainability to transform markets and societies around the world,” Georg Kell, Executive Director of the UN Global Compact said.

“With thousands of companies, from market leaders to small enterprises, committed to responsible business practices, we can see that there is enormous momentum. Now, we need policymakers, investors and consumers to send the right signals to spur the next level of corporate sustainability action, innovation and collaboration.”


Lina Caneva  |  Editor  |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years. She was the editor of Pro Bono Australia News from when it was founded in 2000 until 2018.

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