Sustainability leaders becoming increasingly influential

Sustainability leaders are being given more authority and responsibility in high-revenue firms according to a survey carried out by Verdantix

92% of sustainability managers report directly to the CEO or the executive committee

92% of sustainability managers report directly to the CEO or the executive committee

The independent analysts polled 260 sustainability managers from firms with revenues between $250m and $20bn. More than 90% of respondents reported directly to the company CEO or another member of the executive committee, while overall  spending on sustainability also increased.

The number of CEOs who thought that sustainability issues affected their bottom line has increased by one third to 28%.


The typical budget sized varied considerably, but 65% of respondents said their budgets were between $1 and $2.5m.

Only one third expected their budgets to increase, but 60% expected companywide spending on sustainability to increase, reflecting a wider trend whereby the sustainability team's budget accounts for around one tenth of company-wide sustainability spending.

Health and safety was considered the overall priority, with 92% citing it as 'very important' or 'important'. This was closely followed by energy and environmental management, which was considered very important or important by 90%.


The Heads of Sustainability were from 13 territories: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Mexico, the Middle East, Russia, South Africa, the UK, and the USA.

Respondents' firms spanned 21 industries covering business and financial services, consumer services, energy and basic resources, manufacturing, and retail and consumer products.

Trending up

The Verdantix report builds on several surveys which have found that sustainability is of increasing importance for multinational corporations. Earlier this year, a Reuters poll found that more than half (56%) of companies say sustainability is a growing remit in discussions of investor outreach.

Likewise more and more firms are waking up to the financial opportunities offered by green thinking. Two thirds of organisations polled by Grant Thornton said cost management was the most important driver of their sustainability program.

So who are the standout sustainability leaders? Edie's Sustainability Leaders Awards take place next week; celebrating the very best in sustainable business, recognising true leadership and innovation among companies and organisations that are making genuine progress in embedding sustainability throughout their operations. 

There's still time to book your place at the 2014 Sustainability Leaders Awards - click here to find out more.

Brad Allen


environmental management | retail


Energy efficiency & low-carbon
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