Integrating sustainability values, demonstrating innovation and fostering transparency will be defining characteristics of leading organizations in the next ten years, according to the findings of a pre-release of the 2017 Sustainability Leaders Survey by GlobeScan and SustainAbility in partnership with Sustainable Brands, unveiled earlier this week in Detroit.

The Sustainability Leaders Survey has tracked expert opinions globally on the evolution of the sustainability agenda for two decades, along with views about the leading organizations most responsible for driving it forward. This year marks the 20th anniversary of this recognized longitudinal analysis, with Interface being the only company to have appeared consistently in the top rankings for sustainability leadership throughout the history of this survey.

Over 1,000 experts in 79 countries were asked, unprompted, to name companies that they see as being leaders in integrating sustainability into their business strategy. A select few corporate leaders continue to gain share of recognition with Unilever, Patagonia and Interface leading on sustainable development integration.

Mark Lee, Executive Director at SustainAbility said: “The most recognized sustainability leadership organizations consistently demonstrate strong values, clear goals and integrated strategy. These attributes coupled with vision will define and differentiate future private sector leaders committed to deliver on sustainable development.”

Unilever continues to be seen as the global leader on sustainability, receiving nearly half of total mentions cited (45%, up two points from 2016). Unilever holds this dominant position for the seventh year in a row.

Patagonia is in second position, receiving the largest increase of any company this year, with almost one in four experts citing it (23%, up six points compared to 2016). Interface surveys in at third (11%, up 1 point compared to 2016). IKEA is ranked fourth (8%, down 2 points compared to 2016), and Marks & Spencer, Natura, and Tesla are tied for fifth position (all at 7%).

In every region, experts tend to name consumer-facing companies as leaders. Unilever was the most frequently mentioned global corporate leader by experts in all regions with the exception of Latin America, where Natura leads. Patagonia is among the top five leaders mentioned by experts in all regions.

Eric Whan, Director at GlobeScan, said: “A handful of companies with powerful visions and values have won more share of mind among experts in recent years. Meanwhile it’s becoming harder for others to break through, even though many are making great progress. This is no reason to stop.”

In addition to integrating sustainability into the heart of the business, strong performance in supply chain management, as well as commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), are identified as key reasons why companies are considered to be leaders in corporate sustainability.

While the initial findings were unveiled today at Sustainable Brands 2017 in Detroit, the full report will be published in late June.

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