Saving money is the number one reason executives cite for taking actions towards more eco-friendly business practices, according to a new report from Grant Thornton.
The company’s 2014 International Business Report, Corporate social responsibility: beyond financials, draws on more than 2,500 interviews with business leaders in 34 economies and looks at what companies are doing to make their operations more sustainable and why. The report finds that cost management (67 percent) emerges as the key sustainability driver, followed by customer demand (64 percent) and because it’s the “right thing to do” (62 percent).
The firm’s 2011 report found cost management, brand building and recruitment/retention of staff all tied for first place, with 56 percent of respondents listing each of the three as the top driver towards becoming more sustainable.
Sustainability reporting has increased since 2011 and more than half of businesses now view integrated reporting as best practice, according to the 2014 report.
There is a glut of proof of the payoff from taking sustainability actions. For example, last year General Electric invested nearly $2 billion in research and development for sustainability innovation and generated some $25 billion in revenue. The company has doubled investment in cleantech research and development — R&D investments on ecomagination technologies in 2012 totaled $1.4 billion with overall R&D investment totaling more than $5 billion between 2010 and 2012, which is on track toward the company’s goal of a $10 billion cumulative investment between 2010 and 2015.
In fact, clean energy initiatives have helped the 53 Fortune 100 companies reporting on climate and energy targets collectively save $1.1 billion annually and decrease their annual CO2 emissions by approximately 58.3 million metric tons — the equivalent of retiring 15 coal-fired power plants.