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Six growing trends in corporate sustainability

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EY, in cooperation with GreenBiz Group, conducted a survey in late 2011 consisting of executives and thought leaders in corporate environmental strategy and performance.

For this report, we analyzed the results from 272 sustainability executives in 24 industry sectors who are employed by companies generating revenue greater than $1 billion.

Exploring developments in corporate sustainability programs, the report shows that:

  • 76 percent of survey respondents anticipate natural resource shortages will affect their core business objectives over the next 3-5 years.
  • 65 percent of respondents stated their CFO has become involved in sustainability.
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Our survey covered a wide range of topics related to corporate sustainability and reporting, and the results show that interest in these areas continues to rise (although the tools are still developing). CFOs are emerging as key players in sustainability. And employees are too: they are second only to customers as drivers of company sustainability initiatives.

Despite the decreasing likelihood of regulation to address climate change — at least in the United States — greenhouse gas reporting and reduction efforts remain strong, and interest in water usage, efficiency and stewardship is on the rise.

Also rising is stakeholder interest in the sustainable sourcing and availability of raw materials intrinsic to a company’s ability to operate. And sustainability-focused surveys and questionnaires from customers, NGOs, investor groups, analysts, media organizations and others continue to grow in importance.

These trends suggest that sustainability efforts are now well-integrated into the corporate fabric of a growing number of large and midsized companies.

But the effectiveness of such efforts may be limited by internal systems that don’t allow companies to effectively measure, track and optimize their sustainability impacts, or to understand and manage the risks of insufficient action. To do so will require new levels of engagement by the C-suite, and more sophisticated methods of sustainability reporting and assurance.

From this comprehensive survey, there are additional statistics that illuminate six key trends:

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