Ahead of GreenBiz 2024, Salesforce conducted a new study in partnership with GlobeScan, revealing that 93% of sustainability, finance, and technology leaders think sustainability is crucial to the success of their organizations. However, only 37% perceive it as well-integrated across core business operations.
The report, titled Sustainable Value Creation: Closing the Gap Between Stated Commitments and Operational Realities, identified data quality, cross-functional collaboration, capital allocation, and implementation as limitations to integrating sustainability into core business functions.
Why it matters: Corporate sustainability is strongly tied to overall business success and resilience — and although the majority of companies have made sustainability commitments, many have yet to successfully derive value from them. Without this value creation, companies run the risk of losing resources and investment in these critical initiatives.
Salesforce perspective: “Leaders are recognizing that sustainability can be a driver of long-term business resilience and success, but there is a major gap between ambition and action,” said Suzanne DiBianca, EVP and Chief Impact Officer. “We must integrate sustainability into every aspect of our enterprise, leveraging technology solutions like Net Zero Cloud, to close the gap and accelerate genuine value creation for our customers, stakeholders, and the planet.”
“We must integrate sustainability into every aspect of our enterprise, leveraging technology solutions like Net Zero Cloud, to close the gap and accelerate genuine value creation for our customers, stakeholders, and the planet.” – SUZANNE DIBIANCA, EVP AND CHIEF IMPACT OFFICER
Additional findings: The Sustainable Value Creation research identifies four key gaps that may be limiting companies from making meaningful progress on corporate sustainability commitments.
The Data Gap: Limited access to high-quality data is a concern. 80% of respondents report that high-quality sustainability data is “very important” for getting the full value out of their commitments, but only 27% have access to it. What’s more, new reporting regulations will be a challenge, with 59% believing it will be “difficult” or “very difficult” to comply with the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD).
The Integration Gap: A lack of collaboration is limiting progress. Leaders acknowledge that finance (86%) and technology (75%) functions are important to advancing sustainability within a company. However, they also believe that there is insufficient collaboration between these teams and the sustainability team.
The Capital Gap: Sustainability is of high importance but receives limited focus and capital. 93% of survey respondents said that sustainability is important to commercial success. The research shows around 50% of leadership teams are highly focused on sustainability, but only half of those are allocating the necessary levels of capital.
The Implementation Gap: Companies see value for their reputation, but not operations. Sustainability actions rated as driving the highest value involve perceptions and relationships; they include enhancing brand and reputation (73%) and building stronger stakeholder relations (67%). Fewer perceived value from commercial areas such as growing sales (50%), ensuring a stable supply chain (44%), and reducing costs (42%).
The report, which was co-authored by University of Oxford Professor Robert Eccles and NYU Stern Professor Alison Taylor, surveyed more than 200 professionals — including 76 C-suite executives — across North America, Europe, and Asia.
Industry perspective: The co-authors of the report shared their take on the findings.
“There is a clear lack of ownership of corporate sustainability efforts, and a tendency to treat them solely as a brand building strategy” said Alison Taylor, Executive Director of Ethical Systems. “But the imperative today is meaningful cross-functional collaboration, and of course allocating capital toward these critical initiatives.”
“Our results sadly show that despite all the happy talk about the importance of sustainability, senior management teams aren’t giving it the attention and resources it needs to really contribute to value creation,” said Robert G. Eccles, University of Oxford Professor and Founding Chairman of the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB). “Companies either need to dial back their claims about the benefits of their sustainability initiatives or face this challenge head-on with more senior management commitment and capital to facilitate greater cross-functional integration and improved data on sustainability performance metrics.”
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