International law firm Crowell & Moring released a report earlier this month detailing sustainability trends within the corporate sector. Its findings are based on a July-August 2021 survey of 225 corporate sustainability professionals spanning a variety of industries including banking, healthcare, tech, manufacturing, and transportation, government, and non-profit.
According to survey results, there is broad enthusiasm for sustainability within the corporate sector: nearly 8 in 10 (78%) respondents said they have identified and adopted environmental performance goals beyond what regulations require and 82% of respondents felt their board of directors is adequately focused on the environment.
Crowell & Moring attributed these high numbers to consumers driving change: half of respondents agreed that brand image and reputation among customers are among the most significant factors driving their company to adopt environmental goals. Co-chair of Crowell & Moring’s Environment & Natural Resources Group Thomas Lorenzen commented, “Pressure to improve ESG performance could soon reach a fever pitch. Businesses are increasingly expected to measure, improve, and disclose their ESG performance to investors, to consumers, and to regulators.” The firm also cited president Biden’s pro-environment stance as a motivator: 45% of respondents said that the transition from the Trump to the Biden administration had already driven strategic business decisions.
However, adopting goals is not the same as taking steps to implement them. Survey results show that most companies aren’t even aware of their environmental impact: less than half (44%) of respondents reported measuring their carbon footprint, and only 3 in 10 are measuring the sustainability of their supply chains.
The report warned against failing to follow through with commitments:
“The potential gap between setting environmental performance goals and measuring progress against them may not only hinder a company’s efforts, but can expose a company to increased risks from a rising tide of regulatory enforcement and litigation from advocacy groups, consumers, and investors. And given the intensifying competitive pressure to advance effective ESG programs, such a gap may also cause companies to fall behind their industry peers.”
A separate survey of 250 UK sustainability and energy managers also published earlier this month reported similar findings: nearly three quarters (74%) acknowledged a commitment to powering their business with clean energy, yet only 14% said they look at their energy supplier’s fuel disclosure mix.