Less than a third (32 percent) of CEOs believe the global economy is on track to meet the demands of a growing population, while two-thirds (67 percent) report that the private sector is not making sufficient efforts to address global sustainability challenges, according to a recent survey by the United Nations Global Compact (GC) and Accenture. Still only 38 percent say they currently are able to quantify the business value of sustainability.
The survey of 1,000 CEOs found that a majority believes the failure to make a link between sustainability and business value is the fastest growing barrier of the past ten years. They are calling to incentivize and reward sustainability leaders, while embedding sustainability throughout their organizations.
A lack of financial resources is the leading barrier to advancing sustainability, cited by 51 percent of respondents; 40 percent say that economic conditions have made it difficult to embed sustainability into core business.
In 2007, 18 percent said this deterred them from taking further action, rising to 30 percent in 2010. This year, 37 percent of CEOs cited this factor, and just 38 percent believe they can accurately quantify the business value of sustainability.
Only 15 percent of CEOs think business has made good progress over the last three years in making sustainability a must-have factor for consumers, though 82 percent think this is critical to harnessing sustainability as a transformative force in the economy. Almost half (46 percent) believe consumers will always consider sustainability as secondary to price, quality and availability.
"These companies are harnessing sustainability as an opportunity for growth, innovation and differentiation, and demonstrate that sustainable business is good business,” he added.
These companies more readily accept that the world is not on track to meet the needs of a growing population and that business is not doing enough. They are also more committed to engaging consumers, local communities, policy makers, investors and other stakeholders.