Sustainability a ‘New Concept’ for 12% of CEOs, Verdantix Says

by | Nov 6, 2012

More than one third (38 percent) of corporate sustainability leaders say their CEOs take a long-term perspective on sustainability, according to a Verdantix report.

Verdantix interviewed 250 sustainability decision-makers at firms with revenues of over $250 million, across 13 countries and 21 industries. Instead of asking CEOs if they personally view sustainability as important for business, the analysis firm asked sustainability leaders how they think their CEOs perceive sustainability.

The resulting analysis, published in What CEOs Really Think About Sustainability, finds stark differences in the governance of sustainability between firms where the CEO is still grappling with the concept and firms where the CEO is better informed, Verdantix says.

Some 12 percent of sustainability leaders say sustainability is a new concept for their CEOs, while 21 percent of CEOs believe sustainability affects quarterly performance, according to executives surveyed.

Just under a third (31 percent) of those interviewed say that, for their CEOs, sustainability describes their organizations’ medium-term performance on non-financial metrics such as energy, environment and social responsibility.

The study also found that 62 percent of companies surveyed have an environment, health and safety director at headquarter level, but sustainability program management offices vary in size. While 95 percent of firms have a sustainability program management office at headquarter level, 46 percent of these have more than five employees and 49 percent have less than five.

Fifty-seven percent of sustainability leaders report directly to the CEO; 72 percent report to a different executive officer, Verdantix says.

Nearly one half of CFOs see sustainability as a key driver of financial performance and two-thirds are involved in driving strategies in their organizations, according to a global Deloitte survey of 250 CFOs, representing companies with greater than $1 billion in annual revenue. Verdantix conducted the study on behalf of Deloitte; it was published in September.

About half of corporate executives – 46 percent – say they use sustainability valuation methods to compare and prioritize their sustainability initiatives, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers survey published the same month.

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