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Executives, Consumers Doubt Most Companies Really Going Green

<p>Fortune 1000 executives and the general public believe just a fraction of businesses are embracing green practices, a new survey found.</p>

Fortune 1000 executives and the general public believe just a fraction of businesses are embracing green practices, a new survey found.

Only 29 percent of Fortune 1000 executives and 16 percent of consumers feel a majority of companies are committed to adopting more environmentally friendly business practices, products or services, according to the 2010 Gibbs & Soell Sense & Sustainability Study. In comparison, 54 percent of executives believe only some are walking the green walk, in addition to 48 percent of consumers participating in the survey.

"This general skepticism about the corporate commitment to environmental stewardship represents a critical communications challenge for business leaders," Ron Loch, senior vice president in Gibbs & Soell's greentech and sustainability practice, said in a statement. "Closing this credibility gap is going to require actions and communications that connect with key stakeholders. Having a dedicated staff and line item budget for green initiatives is an important step in making believers of employees, customers, and investors. For connecting with consumers, it means transparency and consistency of message."

The perception that green business practices are a "nice-to-have" and not a "need-to-have" is evident in the survey, with 78 percent citing a lack of return on investment as the top barrier to more businesses embracing greener operations.

However, as Loch points out, there is a large amount of evidence pointing to the contrary. A Northern California community college said this week, for example, that a $17 million solar energy project will save it roughly $150 million over the next five years. Meanwhile, Enterprise Holdings anticipates its efforts to reduce its operations' energy consumption by 20 percent over the next five years will reduce related costs by $50 million.

Seventy-one percent named consumers' unwillingness to pay more green products as the second biggest barrier, followed by 45 percent who chose the difficulty in evaluating sustainability across product lifecycle as the more pressing challenge.

Only 1 out of 10 companies have installed a C-Suite executive for the sole purpose of leading sustainability efforts, while 13 percent said they employed a team specifically dedicated to green initiatives. Most simply added green duties to the existing responsibilities of employees, although nearly 70 percent have at least someone responsible for green initiatives, even if it is a team or individual with other primary job functions.

Not surprisingly, larger companies are more likely to dedicate resources toward green initiatives than small companies. About 38 percent of respondents from companies with fewer than 10,000 employees had no one working on sustainability, compared to 24 percent of those with more than 10,000 employees.

The survey is based on responses from 2,605 U.S. adults and 304 Fortune 1000 executives.

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