Greenwashing, economy ‘will stall sustainability progress’

Published on April 17, 2023

The inability to execute, pressured by fewer resources, threatens to compound previous risks, unless executives take the appropriate steps to achieve sustainability.

Sustainability is a critical corporate issue, touching everything from climate change and clean air, to regulatory compliance and brand integrity, says the second annual sustainability survey, conducted by The Harris Poll and sponsored by Google Cloud. 

The global survey, which surveyed 1,476 top-level executives in 16 countries, reveals a new hazard: failure to execute. These include greater accountability, better measurement and management, and well-defined leadership.

Executives struggle to prioritise 

The research shows that Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) efforts have fallen from the No 1 organisational priority in 2022 to No 3 in 2023. Many executives point to the macroeconomic environment and pressure from external parties to cut corners in their sustainability initiatives and prioritise optimising client relationships and driving revenue.  

But looking at sustainability as a short-term cost instead of a long-term investment is a missed opportunity. The vast majority (85%) of executives acknowledge customers are more likely to engage and do business with sustainable brands, but 78% are now forced to achieve sustainability results on less money than before. The motivation is there, with 72% of respondents saying: “Everyone says they want to advance sustainability efforts, but no one knows how to actually do it” — an increase of seven percentage points from last year. With better measurement, clear decision-making and some creativity, companies can better position themselves to progress on their sustainability and business goals.  

Overcoming accidental greenwashing 

Corporate greenwashing and green hypocrisy remained pervasive concerns among this year’s respondents, with nearly six out of 10 executives (59%) admitting to overstating — or inaccurately representing — their sustainability activities. 

Many believe greenwashing is accidental and underscores the need for accurate measurement, identifying a lack of tools as one of the biggest barriers to true progress. Executives are eager for better systems to track their progress, with 87% of respondents looking to incorporate better measurement into their organisations to help make more accurate targets. 

Measurement is critical. But coupling accurate measurement tools with more ambitious targets is where we believe there is untapped opportunity.

Driving change in internal structure 

In addition to accurate data, achieving an organisation’s sustainability goals requires strong internal teams and structure. The research shows that many executives are also grappling with complex behind-the-scenes logistics of who makes sustainability-related decisions within their company. Most executives (84%) believe their sustainability initiatives would be more effective if they had a better structure with clear accountability. But what does “better” look like? 

Many believe greenwashing is accidental and underscores the need for accurate measurement, identifying a lack of tools as one of the biggest barriers to true progress goals. 

Continuing to build a sustainable future 

Despite headwinds, there’s reason to be optimistic that organisations will continue to operationalise and prioritise sustainability. Nearly all companies (96%) have at least one program in place to advance their sustainability initiatives, and participation in programs remains mostly unchanged from 2022. Interest in organisational sustainability also remains strong, with 84% of respondents saying they care more about sustainability than before. – TradeArabia News Service

Source: Gulf Daily News

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