5 Noteworthy Trends in Corporate Sustainability

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Corporate Sustainability is becoming less of a choice and more of a key survival and growth tactic for big corporations. A recent report from Ernst & Young seems to prove this idea, and upon surveying the “GreenBiz Intelligence Panel,” which consists of executives and thought leaders in the field of corporate environmental strategy, they have made a powerful case for participating in corporate sustainability initiatives, as the field continues to grow. This report highlights key trends in relation to company sustainability initiatives, all of which suggest that sustainability efforts are now “well integrated into the corporate fabric of a growing number of large and midsized companies.”

If any company has ever doubted whether or not the ROI for pursuing corporate sustainability is worth it, this report makes the case that it’s not only worth it–it’s a powerful weapon for growth. Below, we have outlined some key takeaways from this report that certainly help to prove why corporate sustainability is the next frontier in the development of CSR professionals and programs.

1. Growing Motivations for Sustainability
The motivations behind sustainability initiatives have grown as much as the field itself. The motto may have once been “doing well by doing good,” but now it has progressed into a core business strategy in line with longstanding operations such as safety, quality, customer satisfaction, etc. “…Sustainability affects the world outside the company walls on a larger scale, companies face even greater public pressures for transparency and accountability about their sustainability impacts and initiatives.”

2. Sustainability matters to equity analysts
According to the survey, 38% believe equity analysts consider sustainability performance in their evaluation of their company.  Another 30% believe that analysts will continue to do so in the next 5 years. Environmental and climate change issues are more of a concern now than ever before. This, in combination with easy access to sustainability data proves that analysts will only continue to place value on sustainability initiatives in their valuation of top companies.

3. The CFOs rising role in Sustainability efforts
Given the growing interest by equity analysts, is it any wonder that CFOs are investing their time in sustainability efforts? The report states that 52% of CFOs surveyed are directly involved with their company’s sustainability initiative. Ernst and Young explains, “CFOs are getting involved in the management, measurement, and reporting of the companies’ sustainability activities. This involvement has expanded the CFO’s role in ways that would have been hard to imagine even a few years ago.”

4. Employees are Key Drivers of company’s Sustainability Initiatives
It came as no surprise to us that employees have emerged as a key stakeholder group for sustainability programs and reporting, second only to customers. “Employees can be cheerleaders of their company’s sustainability efforts…they are inclined to think of their employers as ‘good guys’ and are more willing than with other companies to give them credit for positive environmental actions.” These finding certainly validate the overarching notion behind employee engagement. These programs do not just build culture for culture’s sake–employee participation and support is integral to the success of sustainability and CSR initiatives.

5. Rankings and Ratings matter to Company Executives
Nowadays, companies face a never-ending flow of sustainability focused surveys and questionnaires from various organizations. Companies may be less than thrilled about filling out these surveys; however, they are inarguably valuable to mainstream media organizations’ sustainability indices. According to the survey, “55% of respondents say that actively responding to sustainability ratings questionnaires is a primary means of communicating with investors about their sustainability performance and initiatives.” Although time consuming, the fact remains that the results of these questionnaires help bring C-suite attention to key sustainability issues.

Reports such as this one continue to prove that employee engagement, C-suite interaction, and integration are key factors in the long-term success and overall authenticity of CSR programs, especially where sustainability is concerned. CSR professionals can put these insights in their arsenal when building programs, in order to make the case to C-suite executives that sustainability and employee engagement are in fact core business strategies, not peripheral ones, and are essential to a company’s overall innovation, growth, and prosperity in the future.

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