Sustainability is Key, 42% of Companies Say

by | Oct 29, 2012

Some 42 percent of companies in 2012 – more than twice as many as in 2006 – say sustainability plays a key role in their business operations, according to a study by Siemens and McGraw-Hill Construction. In 2006, 18 percent of companies did so.

The 2012 Greening of Corporate America study is the third in a series by the two firms, initiated in 2006 to investigate corporate sustainability.

The latest study shows companies are institutionalizing sustainability into business policy and practice, Siemens and McGraw-Hill say. The percentage of firms viewing environmental initiatives as costs, or required based on legal obligations alone, fell from 33 percent in 2006 to 17 percent in 2012, according to the study.

The study also says the influence of the chief sustainability officer position continues to rise, as does the creation of dedicated sustainability budgets.

Energy and cost savings remain the most important drivers encouraging sustainability in corporate America, while financial considerations such as the state of the economy and budget issues are the greatest obstacles to broader adoption.

About half of the executives surveyed expect both lower healthcare costs and greater worker productivity as a result of their sustainability investments, according to Harvey Bernstein, vice president of industry insights and alliances at McGraw-Hill Construction.

Since 2006, when the two companies first looked at the then-emerging trend, corporate sustainability has become a standard element of business strategy, says Ari Kobb, director of sustainability and green building solutions for the Siemens Building Technologies division. Kobb says companies no longer incorporate sustainability simply out of obligation.

The 2006 study showed a fundamental shift in companies’ commitments to sustainability, according to Siemens and McGraw-Hill. By 2009, almost twice as many companies (30 percent) saw sustainability as centrally oriented to their business operations, including the sale of “green” products or services, as compared to 2006.

Research published last week by Cone Communications found 84 percent of Americans hold companies accountable for producing and communicating the results of CSR commitments. Some 40 percent go as far as to say that they will not purchase a company’s products or services if CSR results are not communicated.

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