The 2020 GlobeScan / SustainAbility Leaders Survey | Top Sustainability Leaders

Unilever, Patagonia, Ikea, Interface, and Natura &Co Most Recognized by Experts as Sustainability Leaders According to 2020 Leaders Survey: Four New Companies Join Ranking

Experts also share views on the pandemic, suggesting long-term resilience depends on embedding sustainability and developing innovative new business models

August 12th 2020
– Findings from the 2020 Leaders Survey by GlobeScan and SustainAbility show that Unilever, Patagonia, IKEA, Interface, and Natura &Co are again the most recognized leaders according to this annual global survey of experts. An exciting development this year is the entrance of four new companies that have not previously been part of the top tier of recognized leaders: Microsoft, Ørsted, L’Oréal, and Tata.

The Leaders Survey has tracked global expert opinions on the evolution of the sustainability agenda and which companies experts perceive are leaders and why since 1997. In 2020, over 700 experts in 71 countries were asked, unprompted, to name companies that they see as being leaders in integrating sustainability into their business strategy.

Top Sustainability Leaders

Unilever is named by the most experts globally as a sustainability leader, recognized by 42 percent of respondents. This is the 10th consecutive year Unilever has topped the ranking. After dipping in 2019, mentions of Unilever have rebounded, while recognition of most other companies has remained steady.

Patagonia is in second place (at 26%, down one point compared to 2019), and IKEA ranks in third place (at 14%, up one point compared to 2019). Interface sits in fourth position (at 8 percent, down one point compared to 2019), maintaining its status as the only company recognized in all 23 years this survey has taken place. Natura &Co is in fifth place at 8 percent (no change from 2019).

Natura &Co and Tata are the only two companies headquartered outside of North America and Europe who are recognized by experts as leaders.

The 2020 GlobeScan / SustainAbility Leaders Survey | Top Sustainability Leaders - chart1
Chris Coulter, CEO at GlobeScan, said: “What’s notable about the results this year is that we have four new companies joining the top list of recognized sustainability leaders – a remarkable amount of change in this survey’s history. These results suggest shifting expectations for leadership and show the potential for new approaches to sustainability leadership during these unprecedented times.”

Regionally, Unilever is top-ranked in all regions except Latin America, where Natura &Co stands out in the eyes of 45 percent of respondents. Interface (11%), Microsoft and Tesla (both 10%, respectively) are among the most-mentioned companies in North America, while Danone (13%) and Ørsted (7%) are well-ranked in Europe, and Tata (6%) has gained traction in the Asia-Pacific region.

While having sustainability as part of the core business model continues to be a major factor of recognized sustainability leadership, setting ambitious targets and committing to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is now the top issue in the eyes of experts. As we confront a global pandemic with resulting economic hardship, efforts around health, social engagement, and human rights have turned into key assessment criteria defining sustainability leadership also.

The 2020 GlobeScan / SustainAbility Leaders Survey | Top Sustainability Leaders - chart2

Resilience is dependent upon ESG and innovative business models

Experts call on companies to keep ESG priorities at the forefront as the most urgent action they can take to build resilience. Rethinking business models, ensuring business continuity and risk preparedness, and transforming supply chains were also cited as being other pressing actions to take.

Experts also believe that there will be a renewed focus on environmental issues in the effort to build long-term resilience and to address increasingly interconnected global challenges.

The 2020 GlobeScan / SustainAbility Leaders Survey | Top Sustainability Leaders - chart3
Mark Lee, Executive Director at SustainAbility, said: “The 2020 survey makes clear what the private sector must do to increase resilience and the ability to withstand future shocks in the wake of COVID-19: embed environmental sustainability and ESG in strategy, develop new and sustainable business models, improve risk management and business continuity planning, and transform supply chains. The time to act is now.”

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