Sustainability enables businesses to cope with disruption
A new Gartner, Inc. survey revealed that 87 per cent of business leaders expect to increase their organization’s investment in sustainability over the next two years. Customers are the primary stakeholder group creating pressure for organizations to invest or act on sustainability issues, selected by 80 per cent of executives, followed by investors (60 per cent) and regulators (55 per cent).
“Sustainability enables businesses to cope with disruption,” said Kristin Moyer, Distinguished VP Analyst, Gartner. “Economic uncertainty, geopolitical conflict and escalating materials and energy costs are forcing businesses to re-examine all forms of expenditure. This focus on essentialism, in combination with increasing stakeholder desire to see progress on environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals, creates new opportunities for enterprises to grow while mitigating cost and risk.”
The survey was conducted in June and July 2022 among 221 respondents in North America, Europe, and Asia/Pacific. Respondents were executives in director roles or above within organizations with enterprise-wide annual revenue of at least $US250 million for fiscal year 2021, which are currently engaged in sustainability-related activities.
Sustainability Protects Organizations from Disruption
The survey found that 86 per cent of business leaders see sustainability as an investment which protects their organization from disruption. Additionally, 83 per cent said sustainability program activities directly created both short- and long-term value for their organization, and 80 per cent indicated that sustainability helped their organization optimize and reduce costs.
Specifically, the top areas where survey respondents said sustainability programs are mitigating cost increases are energy consumption, business travel and customer transactions.
“Executive leaders are achieving both operational and supply chain savings through their sustainability programs,” said Moyer. “This kind of ‘two for one,’ where sustainability investment supports a business goal like cost optimization, significantly enhances the program’s impact by creating a virtuous cycle.”
Sustainability Drives Growth and Innovation
Sustainability can also enable new value creation and business growth opportunities. Fifty-seven percent of business leaders said the enterprise sustainability program has a strong connection to the results on the income statement, and 42 per cent of respondents are leveraging their sustainability activities to drive innovation, differentiation, and enterprise growth through sustainable products.
“Investing in sustainability can support product differentiation but be wary of greenwashing risks – there are no shortcuts to sustainable growth,” said Moyer. “Focus on product attributes that are important to customers and how these priorities shape buying decisions. When viewed through a strategic lens, sustainability can provide a ray of sunshine for businesses during difficult market conditions.”