The study identified a number of issues including a lack of communication and engagement by executives, ineffective use of data, siloed technologies that do not share processes or information, and a lack of cross-company and industry collaboration and partnership.
Yet whilst the value of sustainability initiatives is not being realized broadly, the study shows that the business case for them is well understood. Executives expressed eagerness for their organizations to become more sustainable, citing efficiency (58 percent), improving brand reputation (46 percent), and meeting customer needs (44 percent) as top benefits for sustainability efforts. Overall, 63 percent of executives surveyed indicated that their company has a formal sustainability plan already in place.
The study highlights the urgent need for organizations to follow in the footsteps of sustainability leaders. However, the research did identify a small group of executives – around 9 percent – who have embraced sustainability-focused processes and are already reaping the benefits.
Vivek Bapat, senior vice president of purpose and sustainability at SAP, said: “Executives recognize that sustainability efforts can lead to better profitability, attract both customers and employees and drive a positive impact across their supply chains. But achieving these goals requires a high degree of communication and engagement. At SAP, we’re trying to understand how we can support these companies in realizing results from their sustainability goals and to defining best practices across industries.”
Edward Cone, editorial director at Oxford Economics, added: “Sustainability leaders go beyond vision to ensure that sustainability initiatives are acted upon. They communicate with key constituencies both inside and outside the company, and they use integrated technologies to measure and track performance in a way that drives accountability.”
According to the study, efforts to address sustainability concerns fall into five core areas, including starting out with executive sponsorship; driving clear, consistent communications; integrating processes, technologies and data; extending sustainable practices to customers, partners and suppliers, and understanding the importance of data.