business news in context, analysis with attitude

Forbes reports that The United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) and Accenture have released the results of a study entitled "A New Era of Sustainability: CEO reflections on progress to date, challenges ahead and the impact of the journey toward a sustainable economy," which, despite a somewhat wordy title, offers a look at the view of sustainability from the top of more than 750 organizations.

One of the key learnings from the survey - that the global recession had, in fact, allowed numerous companies to use economic rationales to address sustainability issues, addressing not just environmental concerns but also “core business value like cost reduction and revenue growth.”

In fact, only 12 percent of the businesses surveyed had reduced their investment inn sustainability initiatives because of the economic downturn, while 74 percent said they had aligned sustainability concerns more closely with core business strategies.

The report went on, “The widespread perception of the increased importance of sustainability may reflect a new appreciation of the scale and complexity of global challenges facing business today. As issues of climate change and the natural environment, social development and global corporate governance become ever more pressing, CEOs are acutely conscious of the challenges ahead. These challenges have a direct impact on companies’ operations, but also demonstrate the role business must play in addressing the demands of the new century. As one emerging market CEO told us, ‘Sustainable development will be a basic guarantee for our company’s survival and growth’.”

Forbes notes that “the report concludes that while CEOs see a final destination for connecting sustainability and their businesses, the methods and timeline to get there remain uncertain. Some of the proposed action points include:

• Generating new knowledge, skills and mindsets to drive sustainable development.
• Corporate training in sustainability.
• Attracting and engaging employees.
• Leading to an investment environment more favorable to sustainable businesses.
• Embedding new concepts of value and performance at the organizational and individual levels.

“Not surprisingly, this puts the onus on companies to develop talented human capital that is vigilant, aware and cognizant of pursuing a successful career at a company that aligns with their values and commitments. This has already begun to emerge as the greatest challenge for corporate America. Or an advantage, if you choose to recognize it as one.”
KC's View:
Couldn’t have said it better myself. In fact, this story dovetails perfectly with many of the concerns addressed yesterday here in London at the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) Summit.

Sustainability isn’t just for tree-huggers and liberals anymore. It is increasingly recognized as a core business value with enormous strategic value for companies that themselves wish to have sustainable success.