Only about one in four corporate executives report having access to high-quality sustainability data, and almost 60% expect challenges in complying with new sustainability reporting regulations, while almost everyone agrees that sustainability is crucial for the success of their organizations, according to a study. new research conducted by CRM solutions provider Salesforce, in collaboration with insights and consultancy firm GlobeScan.
For the study, “Sustainable Value Creation: Closing the Gap Between Stated Commitments and Operational Realities,” Salesforce and GlobeScan surveyed more than 230 senior professionals across North America, Europe, Asia Pacific and other regions and a broad range of industries, in roles including finance, information technology and sustainability, assessing their views on sustainability as a driver of value creation, as well as progress made and barriers to sustainability integration. The report was co-authored by Professor Robert Eccles of the University of Oxford and Professor Alison Taylor of NYU Stern.
The research shows that while 90% of executives view sustainability as important to the commercial success of their organisation, including two-thirds who consider it “very important”, only 37% believe sustainability is highly integrated into their business. The report highlights several key factors limiting progress on sustainability, including data, a lack of collaboration with finance and technology, limited capital allocation and perceptions of value creation.
Suzanne DiBianca, EVP and Chief Impact Officer at Salesforce, said:
“Leaders recognize that sustainability can be a driving force for long-term business resilience and success, but there is a wide gap between ambition and action.”
According to the survey, 95% of respondents agreed that high-quality data is important to realizing the value of sustainability initiatives, but only 27% reported having high-quality sustainability data, including only 8% having data from “very High Quality”. The executives indicated that most companies are working to address this problem; 63% report that they have increased funding for sustainability data collection and management solutions in the past two years, and 65% plan to do so in the next two years.
The report highlighted the importance of high-quality data to meet new legal requirements for sustainability reporting. The survey shows that 59% of executives expect to have difficulty complying with the new EU Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), and 31% expect challenges with IFRS International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) reporting requirements .
The research also identified gaps in integration between organizations’ finance and technology departments and their sustainability leaders. While 86% of respondents said they consider the finance function important to make progress on sustainability, and 75% reported the same for technology, less than a third (29%) reported a high level of collaboration between finance and sustainability , and only 14% between technology and sustainability. However, executives did report some improvements in this area, with 69% reporting more collaboration on finance and 63% reporting more collaboration on technology over the past two years.
Despite the perceived importance of sustainability to business success as reflected in the research, the report finds a significant gap in resources focused on sustainability, with only 23% of respondents reporting high capital and resource allocation to achieve sustainability priorities, including risks, opportunities and consequences. .
“Our results unfortunately show that despite all the happy talk about the importance of sustainability, senior management teams are not giving it the attention and resources it needs to really contribute to value creation. Companies must either walk back their claims about the benefits of their sustainability initiatives or meet this challenge head-on with greater commitment and capital from senior management to enable greater cross-functional integration and better data on sustainability performance metrics.”
One of the key barriers identified in the report that could prevent greater sustainability integration and capital allocation was the perception of the value of sustainability, with leaders reporting greater impact in areas that do not directly impact the bottom line . For example, while 73% of respondents believed that sustainability has a high or very high value in strengthening brand and reputation, and 67% in strengthening stakeholder and community relationships, only half said the same about growing revenue and 45% on attracting more investment. .
“There is a clear lack of ownership of companies’ sustainability efforts, and a tendency to view them solely as a brand-building strategy. But the need today is meaningful, cross-functional collaboration, and of course, allocating capital to these critical initiatives.”
click here to access the report.