Beyond carbon: putting sustainability at the heart of businessUnited Kingdom
Sustainable business transformation requires visibility across the value chain... and getting it right makes commercial sense
With less than two weeks to go before Cancun, it's clear that policy makers are managing the public's expectations. It seems realistic to anticipate a series of partial agreements at Mexico that will lay the groundwork for a more substantial binding deal in South Africa next year, but nothing more. That won't stop the world's leading businesses as they meet in Cancun. Businesses not only get climate change, but are implementing sustainable business models. And they are doing so not because regulation requires them to, but because it makes commercial sense.
In a survey we conducted with the United Nations Global Compact and introduced by UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon last June, 81% of 766 CEOs said that sustainability issues had become part of their company's strategy and operations, up from 50% in 2007.
What do they mean by that? Certainly, the public and private sectors are introducing concrete initiatives to reduce their emissions, through energy efficiency, supply chain transformation or innovation that reduces their carbon footprint. These initiatives also help reduce costs, improve productivity and enhance intangible assets such as brand and reputation.
But most companies are not heavy emitters and, for them, sustainable business models mean something far more substantial. As low carbon products and services are developed and consumed around the world, companies need to respond to their customers and to their supply chain partners in ways that go the heart of their business strategy. In this sense, sustainability is now a critical driver of business value.
How will the electrification of transport impact retailers and other service providers who could now enter an entirely new market? How can a provider of silicon products respond to surging demand for photo voltaic panels? How can utilities transform their customer service organisations so they are better placed to offer profitable energy efficiency services in place of selling more electricity?
Many businesses may have to consider whether their existing commercial focus will be negatively impacted by the change in consumer habits, by the creation of new markets or the collapse of existing ones. Others may need to consider relocating their operations or re-allocating their assets and investments to better align with changing supply chains.
To enable these transformations, these businesses need better visibility across their value chains. They need improved capabilities for assessing and calculating risks. And they will require leaders who can undertake holistic change management programmes that support such radical changes. It will also be necessary to open up a more creative dialogue with the investor community, which has yet to fully acknowledge the value impact of well thought through sustainability initiatives.
Get it right and it is not just good news for society and the environment, but for consumers, employees and shareholders too. Accenture recently examined the business performance and sustainability data of 275 global Fortune 1000 companies. We found that the 50 companies ranking highest in sustainability leadership outperformed the bottom-performing 50 companies in three-year total return to shareholders by 16 percentage points. The "top 50" outperformed their bottom and middle 50 peers in five-year shareholder returns by an even more impressive margin: 38 and 21 percentage points, respectively.
Has the economic downturn made the task harder? On the contrary, although the downturn has taken some of the heat out of the climate change debate and hampered investment capacity overall, we believe it has given greater momentum to the task facing companies as they embed sustainability at the core of their business. And CEOs agree. Our UN Global Compact survey showed that 77% of CEOs felt that the economic crisis had elevated the role of sustainability in their business.
The macro-economic landscape of chronic volatility and new power plays in a multi-polar world impacted by the energy challenge have conspired with the sustainability agenda to require corporate responses to truly disruptive changes. These generate a unique momentum for action and present both threats and opportunities for their business: the interest and investment in China's low carbon economy illustrate this new dynamic.
The companies and public organisations that gather in Cancun have already recognised this new reality of sustainable business. And some, like cities, are claiming a seat at the negotiating table. Their presence in Mexico is in part to improve their understanding of how the emerging political agreements may impact their business. But above all, they will congregate to learn from each other. How to turn strategic commitment into execution, how to identify best practice and how to implement transformation that goes to the very heart of their business.
Bruno Berthon is Global Managing Director for Accenture Sustainability Services.
El contenido de las noticias que se presentan en esta sección es responsabilidad directa de las agencias emisoras de noticias y no necesariamente reflejan la posición del Gobierno de México en este u otros temas relacionados.
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