UN Global Compact-Accenture report challenge for EABIS and its members

News from EABIS…

Global company CEOs say the economic crisis has raised not reduced the importance of sustainability issues; education, above climate change, is the most important development issue affecting the future success of their business; and training management, employees and the next generation of leaders to deal with sustainability issues is a key challenge.

These are just some of the findings in the most extensive survey of CEOs on sustainability.  The UN Global Compact-Accenture CEO study 2010 A New Era of Sustainability was published today in New York at the UN Leaders’ Summit.  It is based on a survey of 766 CEOs, 50 one-to-one CEO interviews and a further 50 interviews with additional business leaders and stakeholders. From the CEO survey:

  • 93% say that sustainability will  be critical to the future success of their companies;
  • 80% say the downturn has raised the importance of sustainability with 83% recognising that it had elevated the role of sustainability and ethics in building business trust;
  • 81% say that sustainability issues have  become part of their company strategy and operations;
  • 86% say companies should invest in enhanced training of managers to integrate sustainability into strategy and operations;
  • 72% cited education and 66% climate change as the ‘big issues’ they face.

The role of education was viewed in three ways: as a fundamental for economic development; as a basis for the continuing supply of talent to renew workforce capabilities; and to equip current and future leaders with the ability to manage sustainability issues as part of core business.

The need for a new generation of leadership development was a common theme amongst CEOs.  It applies to both academic institutions and the way companies think about their own training programmes.  They recognise the influence of models and approaches learned in colleges and business schools with 88% saying that education systems and business schools’ development of mindsets and skills needed for future leaders to address sustainability is important or very important.

The survey reveals a strong positive shift in attitudes from the comparable 2007 survey:

  • 96% of CEOs agree or strongly agree sustainability should be embedded into strategy and operations, up from 72% in 2007;
  • 93% of CEOs agree or strongly agree that Boards should discuss and act on these issues, up from 69% in 2007;
  • 88% of CEOs agree or strongly agree that companies should embed these issues through their global supply chains, up from 59% in 2007;
  • 72% of CEOs agree or strongly agree that companies should incorporate these issues into discussions with financial analysts, up from 51% in 2007.

But some familiar blockages exist.  When asked what barriers keep them from implementing integrated and strategic companywide approaches to sustainability issues, CEOs top three factors include:

  • Complexity of implementing strategy across functions – 49%
  • Competing strategic priorities – 48%
  • Lack of recognition from the financial markets – 34%

Commenting on the study, Peter Lacy, Managing Director, Accenture Sustainability Services Europe, Africa & Latin America, who lead the company’s work said:

“One of the resounding messages is that CEOs around the world believe leadership development and business education is a top priority.  They see a new generation of leadership capabilities as a critical ‘tipping point’ in the transition to a sustainable economy.  This is a clear call to action for EABIS and its members. The UN and Accenture teams would like to thank EABIS President Gilbert Lenssen for acting as academic advisor on this landmark study and I know he and the EABIS team are already confronting this challenge.”

The results of the survey based on evidence from and for European companies will be presented to a joint Accenture-EABIS event in London in September. The results from and implications for emerging markets will feature in a presentation by Accenture at the EABIS 2010 Colloquium in St Petersburg.

To see the CNBC live interview with George Kell and Peter Lacy click here

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