Sustainability Among Highest Priorities for CEOs in 2022

Sustainability is quickly becoming a top priority for businesses around the world, according to new research by IBM, with CEOs recognising it as essential to their growth.

The annual CEO study, Own your impact: Practical pathways to transformational sustainability, surveyed more than 3,000 CEOs worldwide to determine their attitudes towards sustainability and what progress had been made.

They found that nearly half (48%) rank sustainability as a top priority for their company, up from roughly a third (37%) just last year. On top of that, most leaders are hands-on with nearly 70% saying they are directly involved in defining their organisation’s sustainability strategy.

This is a huge change compared to just a few years ago, mostly because business owners now see sustainability as an asset, rather than a cost. For example, more than 80% of CEOs said that their company’s sustainability investments will produce improved business results in the next five years and nearly half think that sustainability will accelerate business growth.

All of this comes at a time when pressure is mounting on businesses to be part of the climate solution. The study found that many leaders are being pushed by board members, investors, partners, and governments to do more to tackle the climate crisis.

As a result, CEO investment in sustainability has more than doubled as a percentage of revenue over the last five years.

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Despite all of this, there is still a delay in taking real action. The biggest reason for this, according to the study, is unclear ROI and economic benefits.

This may explain why it was also found that CEOs aren’t making the effort to embed sustainability strategies across the entirety of their company. In fact, nearly all CEOs (95%) reported being in the ‘pilot stage’ and have not yet committed fully.

One in five also still believe that targets set out by the government for their industry were simply not achievable.

Although these concerns may be shared amongst many business owners, they often come down to simply not knowing what to do, or what will bring the biggest benefits to them. The good news is that this information is spreading, and business leaders are ready to do more.

“CEOs are leading during one of the most complex environments ever, including war, inflation, talent shortages, and the COVID-19 pandemic health crisis,” says John Granger, Senior Vice President, IBM Consulting.

“Despite these challenges, they aren’t taking their foot off the gas when it comes to sustainability, and more now rank it among their top priorities. Yet, many don’t fully appreciate the extent to which data and technology can bridge the gap from strategy to impact.”

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