Sustainability Leaders at High-Revenue Firms Have Growing Influence

According to a new global survey of 260 heads of sustainability conducted by independent analyst firm,Verdantix, sustainability leaders have increasing executive committee influence, decision-making authority and budgetary contributions across 21 key initiatives spanning assurance, consulting, energy management, natural capital, reporting, supply chain and other sustainability activities. 92% of responding firms have a sustainability leader who reports into the CEO or another member of the executive committee.

“We found that while few sustainability leaders point to large budget increases, our results reveal sustainability spending across entire organizations is typically up to ten times bigger than the sustainability team’s budget with over two-thirds expecting corporate-wide spending growth” stated Yaowen Ma, Verdantix Analyst and author of the report.

The Verdantix report, “Global Survey 2014: Sustainability Budgets And Priorities” is based on interviews with senior sustainability decision-makers and budget-holders from 260 firms with revenues between $250 million and over $20 billion. The Heads of Sustainability were from 13 territories: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Mexico, the Middle East, Russia, South Africa, the UK, and the USA. Respondents’ firms spanned 21 industries covering business and financial services, consumer services, energy and basic resources, manufacturing, and retail and consumer products.

Highlights from the report include:

  • CEOs Increasingly Recognize Sustainability Impacts Financial Performance: 28% of CEOs consider sustainability as factors that already impact quarterly and annual financial performance (21% in 2012)
  • CSOs’ Budgets For Sustainability Vary Dramatically: 65% of CSOs own budgets of up to $2.5 million. 26% have budgets between $2.5 million and $15 million. 5% have over $15 million. 4% have no budget at all.
  • Firms Favour Spending On Employees: 28% of sustainability budgets are invested on employees and 21% is spent on consulting services. 10% of budgets are spent on assurance providers.
  • Improving EH&S, Energy And Sustainability Reporting Are Top Priorities: Over 90% of respondents cite improvements in health and safety, energy and environmental management as “very important” or “important”.
  • CSOs Overwhelmingly Publish Sustainability Reports But Only Half Are Third-Party Assured: 8 out of 10 firms already publish sustainability reports but only 39% of firms pay for external assurance of their entire sustainability or integrated report.
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