London, Toronto, and Washington DC (July 22, 2009) Business and political leaders are lagging far behind non-governmental organization (NGO) leaders and social entrepreneurs in driving the move to sustainability, according to a new global poll of sustainability experts. But a new generation of corporate leaders driving change may be starting to emerge.
Findings from the inaugural annual Sustainability Survey by GlobeScan and SustainAbility show that thought leaders across the world view corporate leadership on sustainability to be far behind that of NGOs and social entrepreneurs, and only slightly better than governments in pushing the sustainability agenda forward.
More than 1,600 experts were surveyed in March 2009 on a range of topics related to sustainability. Respondents are drawn from corporate, government, NGO, academic, research, and service organizations, and span more than 90 countries in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Europe, North and South America, Australia and New Zealand. The Sustainability Survey is the largest global poll of the views of sustainability experts.
The survey also suggests that a new generation of corporate leaders in sustainability is starting to emerge. When asked to name individual companies that are committed to sustainability, experts identified a diverse range of companies from many sectors. Interface, GE, Toyota, and Walmart receive the most recognition from experts.
Expert opinions about corporate sustainability leadership have been shifting over the years. Interface, Toyota, BP, and to a lesser extent, Shell, remain high on the list of leaders, but with fewer mentions than in past years; while mentions of GE, Walmart, Marks & Spencer, and Google are rising in prominence. This new mix of leaders may reflect a shift in expectations about the type of companiesand sustainability strategieswhich appear to be driving the necessary change.
A credible public commitment to sustainability grounded in the company’s core values is cited as a key factor behind experts’ choice of corporate leaders in sustainability. While experts surveyed also say a company’s products, services or policies are important signs of sustainability leadership, it is clear that a company’s ability to communicate a strong commitment to sustainability resonates the most. This suggests companies that integrate sustainability as a core value are also expected to follow through with more sustainable products and services.