Business sustainability integration hampered by short-termism, survey finds

The progress of integrating sustainability within business operations is still being hindered by a focus on short-term results and a lack of management awareness, according to a new survey conducted by a global consultant in risk management.

The DNV GL Business Awareness study, conducted in collaboration with EY and GFK Eurisko, surveyed 1,524 professionals across a range of sectors in four continents to assess the approaches to integrating sustainability into core business. The survey found that an increasing number of companies manage sustainability as a fundamental part of the business strategy, with almost 80% stating that the benefits equal or outweigh the costs.  

However, the paper highlights that the growing prominence of sustainability on the corporate agenda brings its own difficulties. According to the survey, 26% of the companies are more focused on progressing with other priority areas. Meanwhile, 26% of respondents viewed a need to focus on short-term results as a key barrier to integrating sustainability, while a lack of management awareness and staff competences counted for 24% and 22% respectively.

DNV GL Business Assurance’s chief executive Luca Crisciotti said: “There is an increasing, growing need for companies and organizations to integrate sustainability into their core business. This means making sustainability principles a primary driver in determining business strategies, both integrating them into long-term policies and objectives and shaping operational processes and procedures.

“By enabling sustainable business performance, companies are better equipped to meet stakeholder demands, drive change and build long-term value.”

Raising awareness

The paper examined a variety of actions that businesses can undertake to raise awareness about sustainability integration. Around 28% of the companies surveyed reported that they developed corporate communication activities.


Moreover, almost a quarter indicated that they publish information about their company’s sustainability performance and that they use third party certification for the purpose of raising awareness of sustainability integration actions.

The adoption of management systems was flagged as the most important initiative to support integration processes, as indicated by 53% of the respondents. Large companies generally engaged in actions to raise awareness at much higher rates for all activities.

Knowledge gap

The report reflects a growing consensus that a lack of internal and external communication prevents companies from managing risk and integrating sustainability into their core business.

The study follows on from a survey earlier this week, that found that sustainability and investor agendas are becoming increasingly intertwined, but that gaps in knowledge and understanding are preventing companies from sharpening their focus on long-term sustainable value creation.

As mentioned in the DNV report, incorporating sustainability into business operations can be achieved through using certification standards. The new edie explains: ISO 50001 business guide provides an in-depth summary of the ISO 50001 Standard which is used to establish and maintain a continuous level of energy performance improvements.

George Ogleby

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