About the 2022 Sustainability Leaders Survey
Findings from the 2022 Sustainability Leaders Survey, by GlobeScan and The SustainAbility Institute by ERM, finds that sustainability leadership is increasingly being measured by evidence of action, impact, and above all the integration of sustainability into business strategy.
This year’s findings draw from more than 700 sustainability experts who once again came together from over 70 countries. Just as the pandemic begins to feel more under control, a new disruption hit the world in 2022. The war in Ukraine has been another reminder of the volatile and uncertain world we live in.
The Sustainability Leaders Survey is the largest and longest-running survey of its kind and has tracked expert opinions on sustainable development leadership for over 25 years.
- Climate change continues to rise in urgency. The perceived urgency of climate change has increased compared to last year, with sustainability experts now almost unanimously saying climate change is urgent. Energy security is also growing in perceived urgency in the context of the war in Ukraine and subsequent embargoes. Most other issues have decreased in perceived urgency relative to last year.
- National governments, the private sector, and multi-sectoral partnerships are still expected to lead the sustainable development agenda. These three institutional groups are overwhelmingly expected to demonstrate leadership on sustainable development, with the same top three being mentioned as when this question was last asked in 2016.
- World Wildlife Fund continues to dominate in recognition for sustainability leadership among NGOs. Sustainability experts overwhelmingly recognize the World Wildlife Fund as an NGO leader in sustainable development, followed by Greenpeace and the World Resources Institute. WWF’s lead is particularly evident among sustainability professionals in the service / media and corporate sectors and those based in Europe.
- Collaboration and innovation are the main characteristics perceived to be driving NGO leadership in sustainable development. Experts continue to view stakeholder engagement as the main driver for NGO leadership. Innovation and knowledge, as well as the reach and scale of initiatives, are also observed by experts to be consistent indicators of NGO leadership in sustainability over time.
- Unilever and Patagonia continue to top the list of sustainability leaders, while Microsoft makes the top five for the first time. The top 11 (each named by at least 3 percent of expert respondents) is similar to that of 2021, including Unilever, Patagonia, Natura &Co, IKEA, Microsoft, Interface, Ørsted, Tesla, Danone, Google, and Nestlé. Rounding out the list of most-recognized companies, Apple, Marks & Spencer, Nestlé, Schneider Electric, Suzano, and Tata were each acknowledged for their sustainability leadership by 2 percent of experts surveyed.
- Recognized leadership is increasingly driven by action and impact. Continuing the trend seen in the past few years, expert respondents are less focused on ambitious targets and commitments, impressive ambitions, or high-profile executive leadership. Instead, companies are considered to be leaders when they put sustainability at the core of their business models and strategies and focus on tangible impact.
- There is greater diversity among the companies cited as regional corporate sustainability leaders. While the list of globally recognized sustainability leaders is relatively static year over year, different names emerge when experts are asked to identify sustainability leaders among companies headquartered in their own regions. Experts in Africa / Middle East highlight Nedbank, Safaricom, and Woolworths, while those in Asia-Pacific point to Tata. Europe is dominated by Unilever and IKEA, while experts in Latin America / Caribbean most mention Natura &Co, and North American experts favor Patagonia and Microsoft.
- Almost all sectors are viewed by experts as performing poorly on transitioning to sustainability. Technology- and sciencebased sectors are viewed most positively on managing their transition to sustainable development within the respective experts’ region or country. All other sectors are much more likely to be rated negatively than positively on sustainability transition, especially the extractive sectors. Banking / finance, electric utilities, and automotive companies are seen to be transitioning to sustainability better than they were six years ago when this question was last asked.
- Experts believe the war in Ukraine is distracting from sustainability issues in the short term but will lead to increased uptake of renewables in the long term. In addition to being a distraction from sustainability and leading to increased use of fossil fuels, experts view food insecurity and higher prices as prominent short-term impacts of the war in Ukraine. While relatively few experts believe the war is helping to shift the focus to renewable energy in the short term, this is seen as the main likely long-term effect on the sustainability agenda.
On September 23 we hosted a webinar to discuss the results of The 2022 Sustainability Leaders Survey. Watch the recordings below to hear from global thought leaders who shared their insights on this year’s survey findings and answered your questions on the current and future state of sustainability leadership.
Our Americas/EMEA webinar featured:
- Åsa Persson, Deputy Director and Director of Research at the Stockholm Environment Institute
- Zach Freeze, Senior Director, Strategic Initiatives and Sustainability, Walmart
- Charmian Love, Global Director of Advocacy, Natura &Co
- Thomas Murray, Executive Vice President, Environmental Defense Fund
- Aiste Brackley, Head of Research & Insights at The SustainAbility Institute by ERM
- Perrine Bouhana, Director, GlobeScan