Some of the key takeaways from the 2017 Responsible Business Trends Report

The Responsible Business Trends 2017 report, researched December 2016 - January 2017, has a higher number of respondents (2,428 in total) and goes into greater detail than our previous two reports – giving a more comprehensive understanding of the key trends and opportunities within responsible and sustainable business.

Our report indicates that corporate sustainability is being further integrated into business operations and strategy and business will be a key catalyst in ensuring the Paris Agreement and SDGs are met.

In last year’s report we highlighted some encouraging developments from the 2015 to 2016 reports including; more CEOs seeing the value of sustainability to central business strategy and operations, more companies were able to attribute revenues and savings to sustainability activities, an increasing number of respondents claiming that sustainability is sufficiently integrated into broader business strategy and nearly half of our corporate respondents stating their business would be engaging in the SDGs.

Over the past two years we’ve highlighted the need for companies to further leverage the potential of sustainability and improve their means of measuring the return of their sustainability activities.
Reassuringly we’re seeing improvements in all of these cases; accurate measurement of sustainability activity, measuring the ROI of activities and leveraging sustainability to its full potential. However, in all three cases less than 50% of our respondents stated that they were doing this successfully. For sustainability to become a central component to the business strategy, operations and to get an increasingly larger slice of the company’s budget, it needs to improve in all three instances.

Among the many conclusions that we could draw from this year's report, highlights include the following:

  • SDG integration: Encouragingly 6 in 10 of our corporate respondents stated that their company is already integrating the SDGs into business strategy. The top three goals that our global respondents are engaging in are: Goal 13 (Climate action) 62%, Goal 3 (Good health and well-being) 60% and Goal 8 (Decent work and economic growth) 58%.

  • Increasing number of CEOs convinced by the value of sustainability: 74% of our corporate respondents state that their CEO is convinced of the value of sustainability (up 3% on 2016 and 5% on 2015’s report.

  • Sustainability as a source of revenues and savings: This year 54% of corporate practitioners can attribute revenues to their sustainability activities – a 2% increase on 2016’s findings. Nearly two-thirds of our corporate community can link savings to their sustainability initiatives, however it’s a 5% fall on 2016’s report.

  • Mixed feelings with regards to the impact of Trump: Our global community had mixed responses on how the election of Donald Trump will impact their business. Across all regions some stated it will cause a retrenchment of sustainability and climate-related activities. Others business professionals see this as an opportunity for their business and others to step up and advance the required changes. Both scenarios have been experienced over the past couple weeks with Trump's announcement regarding the Paris Agreement and the defiant response by the business community, among others.

  • Sustainability as a source of competitive advantage is number one opportunity in 2017: 20% of our business community see this as being the number one opportunity over the next 12 months. ‘Sustainable innovation’ and ‘embedding sustainability’ were the second and third most selected opportunities in 2017.

Janice Lao, director of corporate responsibility and sustainability at The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels, believes there's reasons to be optimistic, "Despite the political changes of Brexit and US elections, it's very heartening to see an increase of CEOs believing in the case for sustainability as well as more teams working on embedding it within the business. It bodes well to see these findings if we are to truly mainstream sustainability. The tide looks like it is turning."

In conclusion, there has been progress in many key areas such as; CEO engagement, the importance of sustainability to the overall business strategy, and increasing revenues from sustainability activities. Sustainability is becoming an increasingly important part of their business strategy and a large number of companies across the globe are already integrating the SDGs into their business strategy and operations.

We will continue to monitor these trends, both through discussions at our events and analysis published in our magazine. In next year’s report we hope to see this continuation in the advancement of sustainability into mainstream business, as well as improvements in the measurement and attribution.

#RBTrends  SDG integration  Sustainability ROI  Trump  trends 

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