UK business buys into sustainability, survey shows

According to a recent survey by management consultancy Arthur D Little, over 80% of executives believe their companies can derive real business value by implementing a sustainable development approach to strategy and operations across the organisation.

The survey of 481 environmental, health and safety and other business executives in North American and Europe, found that 95% of companies believe that sustainable development is important and 82% believe it offers business value. Already 69% of companies in Europe, and 56% in North America, are embarked on efforts to capture business value through pragmatic business initiatives.

The survey showed that companies see several facets to the business value of sustainable development: improving efficiency, enhancing relationships, and providing competitive opportunities. In an open-ended question, over half of respondents replied that the business value from a sustainable development approach comes through eco-efficiency. Better external relations (27%) and competitive advantage (26%) were also popular, unprompted, responses.

Despite its perceived importance, however, only 17% of companies see themselves as well down the road to integrating sustainable development into their business strategy or operations. Nearly half of respondents saw themselves as making some progress, while under a quarter were just beginning to explore the possibilities.

The survey highlighted where companies most need to change in order to implement a sustainable development approach. Over three-quarters of respondents pointed to their company’s vision and strategy as the starting place for improvement. But even when the CEO is driving change, staff must be engaged in the process. The survey highlighted the gap between vision and daily reality in that 53% said staff needed more alignment and motivation to make sustainable development actually happen.

Innovation in technologies and processes is recognised by 58% of respondents as a way of making sustainable development a reality. Many people (37%) saw product development as a key route.

Respondents also perceive a need for change in their markets as well as their companies. Thirty-five per cent felt customers and suppliers should be encouraged to revise upwards – in environmental and social terms – their expectations of the companies they deal with.

For a copy of the report ‘Realising the Business Value of Sustainable Development’ tel: 01223 392090.

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