KPMG Confirms the Upside of Sustainability

KPMG Confirms the Upside of Sustainability

Corporate sustainability strategies are delivering a wide range of commercial and operational benefits for many of the world's leading companies, according to a major new survey of senior global executives released today.

The survey, commissioned by consultancy giant KPMG and undertaken by the Economist Intelligence Unit, polled over 370 senior figures at large firms, half of whom hold board positions.

It concluded that formal sustainability strategies are delivering a wide range of benefits, including improved customer relations, enhanced profitability and the development of new products and services.

"While most of the companies we spoke to implemented sustainability strategies for brand reputation enhancement and compliance reasons, those companies have also benefitted from increased profitability, new and better quality products and services and improved employee morale," said Vincent Neate, European head of climate change and sustainability at KPMG.

"It is certainly positive to see that all of the U.K. respondents -- and the majority of the 400 global companies we spoke to -- either have a sustainability plan in place or are in the process of developing one."

The survey confirmed that the main driver behind the development of sustainability strategies remained the desire to enhance brand reputation or comply with environmental regulations.

However, the benefits that resulted from such strategies covered a wide range, with 32 percent claiming sustainability helped them attract and retain customers, 31.5 percent citing increased profitability, and 25 percent stating that they had developed better quality products and services as a result of sustainability efforts.

The survey, which has been released to coincide with the opening of KPMG's Global Centre of Excellence in climate change and sustainability in Amstelveen, the Netherlands, also confirmed that sustainability strategies are hampered by the absence of standardized metrics to measure their success.

Three-quarters of respondents said that the lack of meaningful benchmarks was a challenge for sustainability strategies, while 40 percent noted that competing short-term business priorities also hampered green efforts.

"In a tough economic environment, it is crucial that the progress that has been made in engaging the business community in sustainable practices is not stilted through lack of measurability," said Neate.

He added that task forces set up by the Global Reporting Initiative and the International Integrated Reporting Committee were making progress towards developing common standards for sustainability metrics.

This article originally appeared at BusinessGreen.com and is reprinted with permission.