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This latest UN Global Compact-Accenture CEO Study indicates that CEOs within the infrastructure and transportation services industry are beginning to see sustainability as a critical factor in the success of their businesses.
The study identifies current perceptions and identifies 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 infrastructure and transportation service (I&TS) industry, now see sustainability—those environmental, social and governance issues covered by the UN Global Compact’s 10 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. The global geographic and industry coverage of contributing CEOs further provided unique insights into the challenges and opportunities of the coming decade.
Eighty-nine percent of I&TS CEOs believe that sustainability issues will be critical to the future success of their business.
Ninety-three percent of I&TS CEOs believe that sustainability issues should be fully integrated into the strategy and operations of a company.
Fifty-two percent of I&TS CEOs identify consumers as the most important stakeholder group that will impact the way they manage societal expectations.
Fifty-three percent of I&TS CEOs cite complexity of implementation across functions as the most significant barrier to embedding sustainability.
Seventy-one percent of I&TS CEOs cite ‘brand, trust and reputation’ as one of the top three factors driving them to take action on sustainability issues.
Eighty-four percent of I&TS CEOs believe that companies should integrate sustainability through their supply chain; only 50 percent believe that their company has done so.
Ninety-three percent of I&TS CEOs report that their company will employ new technologies to address sustainability issues over the next five years.
Leading companies in the infrastructure and transportation industry are beginning to appreciate new links between sustainability and the fundamental metrics of core business. As business-to-business customers and end users demand better environmental performance, and companies’ commitment to sustainability becomes a differentiating factor in securing a licence to operate, CEOs believe integrating sustainability throughout their strategy and operations will be critical to success.
Whilst I&TS CEOs feel that the integration of sustainability into their global footprints will be achieved within a decade, many challenges still remain, including:
Investor uncertainty. Many CEOs believe that investors are not supportive of corporate efforts to create value through sustainability.
Consumer uncertainty. CEOs are looking for clearer signs that sustainability actually drives buying behaviours.
Regulatory uncertainty. CEOs note the need for greater clarity around the scope of future regulation.
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 must 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.
CEOs in the infrastructure and transportation services sector, 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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