Climate change, materials use, air pollution, solid waste and resource availability were the top sustainability issues business executives identified for investment, according to a new global research study from SAP SE. But implementing and scaling plans for action are still obstacles many encounter.
“Improving the Environment at Planetary Scale: A Survey of Business Drivers and Actions” explores steps businesses are taking to improve the environment, and the challenges they face. The study will be discussed at the virtual SAP Sustainability Summit, April 28–29. The summit will focus on how companies are reducing their environmental footprints and managing limited resources productively while steering and reporting their businesses holistically.
Based on feedback from more than 7,400 business executives, spanning 19 countries and 16 industries, the survey also found:
- The greatest percentage of respondents (29%) said industry regulations were an underlying reason for investing in environmental issues. However, 27% cited strengthening society’s approval of their organization as a strong underlying reason, while 26% cited risks to company reputation.
- CEO and board commitment as well as governmental regulations tied as top motivator. Revenue and profit growth were close seconds, demonstrating that environmental actions are influenced by internal as well as external pressures.
- Uncertainty as to how to embed sustainability into business processes and IT systems was seen as the greatest barrier to implementing plans for action, at 35%. Aligning the proposed actions with overall business strategy (34%) was second and difficulty proving ROI (33%) followed.
- Only 21% of individuals surveyed said they are completely satisfied with the quality of the data for environmental issue areas, with the primary reason being lack of confidence that data is complete and covers the required scope.
“The results of this study show that that 83% of businesses do not believe that environmental impacts are material to their business right now,” SAP Chief Sustainability Officer Daniel Schmid said. “Businesses need to recognize that environmental issues are important now. With an increasing percentage of consumers focused on values and ethics of the businesses they buy from, we have an important responsibility to help organizations better understand the business impacts of the climate crisis, overcome the barriers identified in this report and accelerate their pace toward climate action.”