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This latest UN Global Compact-Accenture CEO Study indicates that CEOs within the communication industry are beginning to see sustainability as a critical factor in the success of their businesses. The study identifies current perceptions, and indicates the challenges that still need to be overcome.
Since the last UN Global Compact CEO study in 2007, CEOs’ views on sustainability have undergone a fundamental change. Business leaders worldwide, including those in the communications industry, now see sustainability—those environmental, social and governance issues covered by the UN Global Compact’s Ten Principles—as central to their business.
Nearly 1,000 CEOs, business leaders, members of civil society and academic experts have contributed to what is the largest CEO survey on sustainability of its kind to date. The global geographic and industry coverage of contributing CEOs further provided unique insights into the challenges and opportunities of the coming decade.
Eighty-one percent of communications CEOs believe that sustainability issues will be “important” or “very important” to the future success of their business.
Eighty-one percent of communications CEOs believe that sustainability issues should be fully integrated into the strategy and operations of a company.
Seventy percent of communications CEOs cite “brand, trust and reputation” and “potential for revenue growth and cost reduction” as among their top three factors driving them to take action on sustainability issues.
Sixty-three percent of communications CEOs identify consumers as the most important stakeholder group that will impact the way they manage societal expectations.
Forty-one percent of communications CEOs cite complexity of implementation across functions as the most significant barrier to embedding sustainability.
Eighty-one percent of communications CEOs believe that companies should integrate sustainability through their supply chain; only 48 percent believe that their company has done so.
Eighty-five percent of communications CEOs see “accurate valuation by investors” of sustainability as important to reaching a tipping point in sustainability.
Eighty-nine percent of communications CEOs see education as the global development issue most critical to address for the future success of their business.
Eighty-one percent of communications CEOs report that their company will employ new technologies to address sustainability issues over the next five years.
Leading CEOs within the communications sector are beginning to see sustainability as a top-line opportunity—and most companies appreciate the potential cost reduction benefits of more sustainable operations. As the industry is becoming ever more competitive, there is a growing emphasis on lean manufacturing and other operational improvements supporting efficient production. Interestingly, communications CEOs are significantly ahead of the global average in this perception of sustainability—70 percent, compared to the survey average of 44 percent—cited “potential for revenue growth and cost reduction” as a critical motivating factor in influencing their action on sustainability.
Whilst the majority of Communications CEOs believe that the full integration of sustainability into their strategies and operations could be accomplished within a decade (67 percent), this process is not irreversible, and many challenges remain, including:
Investor uncertainty. Many CEOs believe that investors are not supportive of corporate efforts to create value through sustainability, and are failing to factor performance on sustainability issues into valuation models.
Consumer uncertainty. The effect of environmental impacts on consumer buying patterns remains unclear.
Regulatory uncertainty. Communications executives spoke of the need for greater clarity around the scope of future regulation.
In order to overcome marketplace and economic challenges and accelerate a tipping point in the integration of sustainability into core business, CEOs believe that a number of essential conditions need to be put in place. Businesses need to take a leadership role to bring them about, often in collaboration with wider stakeholders such as the UN Global Compact:
Actively shape consumer and customer awareness, attitudes and needs.
Generate new knowledge, skills and mindsets for sustainable development.
Lead the creation of an investment environment more favorable to sustainable business.
Embed new concepts of value and performance at the organizational and individual levels.
Create a clearer and more positive regulatory environment for sustainability.
Communications CEOs, along with their peers from all industries around the world, are willing to step up to the challenges ahead. They recognize that our current period is “the end of the beginning” and not “the beginning of the end” in the transition to a new era of sustainability.
May 22, 2011
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