New research from GlobeScan and the SustainAbility Institute by ERM signals a shifting paradigm in sustainability leadership, emphasizing innovative, sustainable business models beyond mere compliance.
The results were gathered from a survey of over 500 professionals from across the globe and various sectors, conducted between March and May 2023.
This comprehensive survey, now in its 25th year, is lauded as the most extensive longitudinal study on sustainable development leadership.
Key findings highlight that sustainability leadership in the Asia Pacific region entails embedding sustainability into business models and strategies (27%), demonstrating evidence of impact and action (17%), and setting ambitious targets (16%). Corporate sustainability champions include Mahindra & Mahindra, City Developments Ltd., PTT Global, and Tata, among others.
Climate change continues to rank as the most urgent sustainability challenge (93%), with deforestation newly introduced into the survey and already ranking among the top five (86%). Other persistently high-ranking issues include biodiversity loss (86%), water scarcity (86%), and poverty (80%).
Significant legislative actions, such as the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the EU Green Deal, and the COP15 biodiversity agreement were highlighted as most significant on the global stage. The experts also underscored the rising importance of disclosure standards and green financing.
Mark Lee, Director of the SustainAbility Institute by ERM, commented: “We’re witnessing companies pushing boundaries to integrate sustainability into their strategies and operations. Patagonia, this year’s leading company, exemplifies this trend, having channelled all profits towards nature and climate action.”
Government actions were also lauded, with GlobeScan CEO Chris Coulter stating: “Government is back when it comes to sustainability! Stakeholders point to new legislation and disclosure rules as pivotal breakthroughs in the sustainability agenda.”
In a first, Patagonia outshined Unilever, being recognised by 32% of sustainability professionals as a leading company in sustainability efforts. IKEA, Natura &Co, and Microsoft also made the top five.
NGO leadership in sustainable development was led by the World Wildlife Fund, followed by Greenpeace, UN-affiliated organisations such as the Global Compact, and the World Resources Institute.
These findings underline the shifting landscape of sustainability leadership, with businesses expected to step up with innovative strategies and models, ambitious targets, and tangible actions. This heralds a promising future where corporate responsibility and government legislation unite to address the pressing challenges of sustainability.