Less than half of company executives see sustainability as high priority


A new report by ENGIE Impact appears to reveal that attitudes to sustainability are lagging among company executives – only 45% of execs who participated in ENGIE Impact’s global 2020 study see sustainability as a top or high priority. However, 75% believe it will be a high priority in five years and that excellent execution of a leading sustainability strategy will provide a competitive advantage.

The findings of the survey come at a critical time for climate change and business sustainability, with high-level organisations such as the International Monetary Fund and Bank of England recently warning of the serious threats that climate change can have on growth.

Despite the positive attitude towards the importance of sustainability in half a decade, the majority of company executives concede they are failing today – less than 30% believe their sustainability initiatives to date have been successful.

“The findings of this report confirm that attitudes towards sustainability are evolving. However, while three-quarters understand it will be a priority in five years, companies must start now to capture the full economic and environmental benefit sustainability transformation can deliver,” commented Mathias Lelièvre, CEO at ENGIE Impact. “Less than one-third are satisfied with the sustainability initiatives they’ve implemented, and this poses a significant long-term issue, because it will directly impact on corporate revenues and profit.”

The report also reveals how access to capital to implement sustainability transformation isn’t a barrier, disproving a misconception that insufficient capital is slowing corporate action. This is evident in how only 12% of executives cited insufficient capital or financing options as a barrier today. Furthermore, only 5% of respondents believe insufficient capital or financing options will be a barrier in five years, meaning businesses will have greater access to more capital for sustainability transformation in coming years.

There are bigger barriers than finance, according to executives. They consistently noted the lack of expertise in emerging technologies as a barrier today and in five years, for example. Also, despite increasing regulation in the EU, over half of EMEAI respondents cite the lack of standardised guidelines and regulations as a significant barrier to implementing sustainability initiatives today. However, they remain more hopeful than most that this barrier will subside – only 16% perceive it to remain a barrier in five years.

“Companies that have seen early success in their sustainability initiatives have invested in a stronger understanding of risk and opportunity, which in turn has driven immediate action,” continues Lelièvre. “Those that have invested more in the tools to identify and quantify opportunities have moved quicker, as, armed with data, it becomes clearer that action cannot wait.

“Those companies that are lagging behind are advised to accelerate their sustainability efforts and learn from the companies that are successfully transforming already. Otherwise, they could be left behind.”