Business Brains

Corporate sustainability, a progress report

Posting in Energy

More than two-thirds of companies surveyed by KPMG and the Economist have an active sustainability program. Does your company 'get it'?

Just found this research on the KPMG Web site, while I was reviewing their broader corporate sustainability services. The firm has just released some data, collected in conjunction with the Economist Intelligence Unit, suggesting that close to two-thirds of midsize and large companies worldwide "get it" with respect to business sustainability and have an active strategy in place.

That means, of course, that one-third of those surveyed don't get it.

The data reflects the opinions of 378 large and medium businesses from 61 different countries, and it is included in the KPMG report: "Corporate Sustainability, a Progress Report."

The smaller companies in the survey mix had revenue of $500 million or less, which is important because I still think smaller businesses tend to think that anything that smacks of green or environmental concerns is inherently a drag on the bottom line. You won't be surprised, then, to hear that the large companies were more likely to have a sustainability program in place.

With that in mind, I think it is worth mentioning that 61 percent of the survey respondents said that investing in some sort of sustainability program -- whether that was retrofitting for energy efficiency, reducing water consumption or addressing supply chain policies -- had direct operational benefit for their companies that outweighed the drawbacks. It has even been a stimulus for innovation. Consider this excerpt from the report:

"According to [IBM Vice President for Corporate Environmental Affairs and Product Safety Wayne] Balta, IBM's long experience in improving the environmental sustainability of various products and processes has in turn aided the company's ability to develop new solutions for its clients. Others agree: a significant proportion of companies polled for this report say that sustainability is both a driver of innovation (44 percent) and a creator of new business opportunities (39 percent). For Siemens, corporate sustainability has shifted focus from risk and compliance to something that can drive business expansion. Its portfolio of environmental products and services -- including energy-efficient gas turbines and offshore wind farms as well as desalination and water-cleaning technologies -- outperformed the company's other businesses."

It is time for those who view corporate sustainability initiatives as an obligation to avoid certain business risks to alter that thinking, or risk being left behind when their competitors innovate around them -- in the form of new products, services and business processes that are developed with the triple bottom line in mind.

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Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure