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Concern for the environment still main driver for business sustainability, survey finds

Despite evidence that putting sustainability at the heart of a business can bring opportunities for growth, concern for the environment and society is still the main driver for implementing eco-friendly business practices, a survey from Accenture released today shows.

The results of a survey by Accenture, the management consulting, technology and outsourcing firm, were broadly positive. They concluded that the majority of business executives believe that the benefits resulting from their sustainability initiatives have exceeded expectations and that most saw sustainability as a investment, rather than a cost. However, the survey also showed that a hardcore minority of businesses do not see sustainability as a critical or strategic investment, while those that do are more likely to be taking decisions because it’s the “right thing to do” rather than because of the business opportunities it might present.

“The good news is that companies are already seeing sustainability investments generate returns in terms of market success and cost performance,” managing director of Accenture Sustainability Services Bruno Berthon said of the survey results.

Survey respondents, consisting of 247 high-level business executives such as owners, partners and vice presidents from the US, UK and China, were asked for their opinions concerning sustainability in business, why and how they are changing to become more sustainable and what they see as the government’s role in sustainability.

Key findings

Based on the survey, business leaders feel the main benefits of maintaining a sustainable business were reputation and trust, lower costs and having an improved brand. In addition, 68 per cent of business decision makers see sustainability as an integrated part of their business, while only 32 per cent view it as a peripheral matter.

Though the majority of business leaders (68 per cent), view sustainability as an investment, 34 per cent see it as a cost. Additionally, 28 per cent of respondents said their business invests too much or far too much in sustainability.

“The irony is that the hardcore third of businesses who don’t enjoy these benefits are likely the ones who think sustainability is peripheral to their business,” Berthon said. “Only by placing it at the heart of commercial strategy can sustainability be a channel to growth and innovation.”


Key motivators for implementing eco-friendly business practices were topped by a genuine concern for the environment and society (53 per cent), followed by reducing energy and material costs (50 per cent). Less than half of respondents considered customer expectations (47 per cent) and an opportunity for higher margins and business growth (45 per cent) as main drivers.


Concerns that business leaders identified as barriers to greener business included the inability to measure sustainability initiatives (31 per cent), the lack of Government and local government incentives (30 per cent) and the belief that one company can’t make a difference to global warming (29 per cent).

The survey results show that there is a considerable divide in who business executives believe should be responsible for ensuring progress is made in a sustainable way – 41 per cent say businesses should, 36 per cent thing the Government should and 23 per cent believe individuals should be the party responsible for sustainability.

Though some executives would prefer more Government incentive, the survey results revealed that the majority, 75 per cent, had confidence in the financial sector to provide funding for sustainability initiatives.


Source: Greenwise Business

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