Sustainability will distinguish leading businesses in next decade, survey finds

The world's leading organisations in the next decade will be defined by their ability to integrate sustainability into their core business model, according to a new survey conducted by strategy consultancies Globescan and SustainAbility.

The annual survey of more than 1,000 qualified sustainability experts found that future leaders will excel at transparency and engagement. Experts also expect innovation and social responsibility to be the key attributes of corporate trailblazers in the upcoming 10 years, the study found.

When asked about their views on the organisations most responsible for driving the sustainability agenda over the past two decades, experts generally cited consumer-facing brands, with Unilever consistently named as the global leader on sustainability. The consumer goods brand received 45% of total mentions cited, and holds the top position for the seventh year in the row.

American clothing company Patagonia came in second place, followed by Swedish retailer and carpet manufacturer Interface – the latter being the only firm to have appeared consistently in the top ranks for sustainability leadership throughout the 20-year history of the survey.

“A handful of companies with powerful visions and values have won more share of mind among experts in recent years,” GlobeScan director Eric Whan said. “Meanwhile, it’s becoming harder for others to break through, even though many are making great progress. This is no reason to stop.”


In addition to integrating sustainability into the heart of the business and demonstrating executive leadership, strong performance in supply chain management, as well as commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), are identified as key reasons why companies are considered to be leaders in corporate sustainability.

The survey comes a week after a separate study found that corporate responsibility is resonating amongst staff and consumers, offering better recruitment options for firms that embrace sustainability agendas.

New research from EY, meanwhile, has found that the majority of businesses believe that having a well-integrated corporate purpose, rather than maximising shareholder value, holds the key to succeeding in the future.

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George Ogleby

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