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IBM research: Sustainability vision still not aligned with strategy

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Corporate America is counting on social responsibility to improve efficiency, but few companies are collecting enough data to make their dreams a real...

Corporate America is counting on social responsibility to improve efficiency, but few companies are collecting enough data to make their dreams a reality, according to an IBM survey.

IBM's second global survey about corporate social responsibility reveals that they calling upon corporate social responsibility strategy to improve efficiency, but few of these same companies appear to be collecting enough data to make their dreams truly a reality.

Eric Riddleberger, IBM's business strategy consulting global leader, identifies three questions that  executives should consider when putting their own sustainability strategy under the microscope:

  1. Are you collecting the right data deep enough and often enough? According to the survey results, only 19 percent of the 224 respondents in IBM's survey were collecting carbon emissions data, as an example, on a weekly or more frequent basis. IBM figures that only 30 percent of executives who respondent are collecting data often enough to make informed strategic decisions based on their analysis.
  2. Do you gather data and other performance data related to sustainability from your global supply chain partners? About 30 percent of the survey respondents aren't collecting any data at all from their supply chain partners, while 8 in 10 aren't asking for data on carbon dioxide or water usage trends and 6 in 10 aren't looking at labor standards for their supply chain partners.
  3. Do you have a handle on what your customers, shareholders and employees think about social responsibility and sustainability? Fully 65 percent of the IBM survey respondents don't now what their customers think; 37 percent aren't conducting any research at all about these impressions. Sadly, this could be a huge driver of brand reputation and marketing campaigns: Something like 70 percent of the respondents that have a mature corporate sustainability/responsibility strategy in place regularly consult their customers about these issues.

IBM's sustainability information, the full report on this data and a podcast about the results can be found at this link.

One parting word from Riddleberger: While it's great to appoint a corporate social responsibility officer or executive as you begin to work through these strategies, the smart strategy to strive for is to make sure this thinking infiltrates every layer of upper management and the boardroom. Only then can your sustainability policy mature.

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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