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Sustainability, a business opportunity: BT Study

Sustainability, a business opportunity: BT Study
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First Published: Thu, Nov 01 2007. 12 00 PM IST
Updated: Thu, Nov 01 2007. 12 00 PM IST
New Delhi: Organizations are failing to realize business benefits from sustainability programmes and while it may be firmly on boardroom agendas, executives and managers are yet to find ways of harnessing it as a commercial force.
BT in partnership with Economist Intelligence Unit conducted a research on how sustainability is a business opportunity. Based on a survey of 750 global executives on attitudes to sustainability and how they get reflected in corporate culture and workforce it conducted 10 in-depth interviews covering a range of questions, from how people define sustainability to what they are doing about it and how they prioritize it.
It highlighted that while everyone states great commitment to sustainability, when you scratch the surface, reality of business practice usually falls far short of intent.
Francis Barrault, CEO BT Global Services, said “the link between sustainability and commercial success is, without doubt, becoming clearer all the time. Our own sustainability performance is helping us win deals, create new offerings and build enthusiasm amongst our workforce.”
All organizations, BT included,were found to be at the start of this journey, but now is the time for CEOs and CFOs to lead from the front. Sustainability can be a win-win for all concerned – local communities, emerging economies, the environment and also the bottom line.
Scope of Study
* How much clarity exists on the term ‘sustainability’ itself
* Provide a benchmark on what companies are doing here and how seriously they are taking their commitment
* Have a self assessment of how well companies believe they are doing
* Highlight conflicts between companies’ market positioning on sustainability and the reality of their business practices
* Establish the disconnect between stated importance of sustainability and staff numbers and levels dedicated to it
* Year-on-year comparison of whether companies are taking sustainability more seriously when choosing partners
Key Findings
* Organizations are failing to realize business benefits from sustainability programmes; while almost half (46%) said that these helped improve brand value, just one in five (20%) felt they improved profitability
* Whilst sustainability may be firmly on the boardroom agenda as organizations compete for a ‘responsible’ reputation, executives have yet to find a way to harness it as a commercial force
* One third (33%) respondents admitted that their company only makes sustainability efforts in markets where it is perceived to have an impact on customers’ perceptions of the firm, and a similar proportion (31%) admitted that their company’s sustainability efforts mostly centre on communication, rather than actual change
* Sustainability programmes missed out on board-level leadership. In two out of five organizations (40%), the person responsible for sustainability issues did not report directly to the board, while 23% had no person responsible for such matters
* ‘Commitment to sustainable practices’ was rated the least important consideration when deciding to partner or collaborate with a third party company
* Sustainability practices are most firmly embedded in companies’ investor/public relations activity (32%) and HR functions (29%)
* Nearly one quarter of respondents (24%) agree that their organization’s sustainability efforts are primarily driven by staff at the grassroots rather than senior management level
* More than one third respondents (37%) were given specific sustainability goals to achieve as part of their responsibilities
* More than one third (34%) said their company’s commitment to sustainable practices is not embedded in downstream suppliers and their supply chains
The full report, “Action or Aspiration? Sustainability in the Workplace”, can be downloaded from www.biggerthinking.com/actionoraspiration
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First Published: Thu, Nov 01 2007. 12 00 PM IST