Just 1 in 5 businesses clear on how to achieve their sustainability commitments, survey finds

The ‘Sustainability Maturity’ survey was conducted by consultancy Sphera and polled 218 business leaders across the world. The cohort of interviewees, Sphera claims, represents an array of different sectors and business sizes. The results were published today (30 September) in a new report. 

Half (51%) of the survey respondents confirmed that their company has sustainability commitments that have the support of the board, but less than one-third (29%) stated that their organisation has set and communicated time-bound numerical targets.

This lack of disclosure may be down to the fact that only 21% of the respondents said their organisation has a clear roadmap for delivering targets. This proportion rose slightly, to 26%, for respondents who claim that sustainability does not sit in a silo, but is embedded into the core business strategy at their organisation.

In other words, while top-level ambitions are increasingly being set, many firms are still unsure of how they will meet them. This is particularly true for Scope 3 (indirect) greenhouse gas emissions; just 13% of surveyed companies have identified which categories of Scope 3 emissions will be most relevant to them and completed measurements of emissions from these sources. 

Companies of all sizes and sectors, Sphera has stated, cannot rely on a silver bullet to translate commitments into action – a variety of solutions and enablers will be needed.

Specifically, on the policy side, the report emphasises the need for governments to set stricter and more unified disclosure requirements for businesses.

“Businesses have largely been left to their own devices to establish and measure their sustainability performance, leading to a constellation of voluntary frameworks that ultimately disincentivize meaningful action,” Sphera’s chief executive Paul Marushka said.

“But with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent report providing its strongest warning yet – indicating that half-measures will no longer cut it – and the upcoming COP26 conference promising to hold the business community to account, organisations need to start making good on their promises and show tangible progress.”

On the business side, the report emphasizes the importance of good data in avoiding greenwashing and laying the foundations to develop– and deliver against – ambitious targets. This can also help businesses get ahead of impending changes to rules on disclosures.

The survey found that just 16% of respondents’ businesses are using emissions data from established commercial databases and a further 14% are using high-quality, industry-based data. This means 70% of respondents work at places using what Sphera calls “suboptimal datasets” which can lead to inaccurate assessments.

Improving data quality was one of the key focus points during edie’s recent masterclass webinar on getting to grips with Scope 3 emissions, hosted in association with Inspired Energy. You can read the key takeaways from that session by clicking here and watch the whole 60-minute event on-demand by clicking here.

Sarah George

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