U.S. consumers and Fortune 1000 executives doubt there is widespread commitment to “going green” among corporate America, according to the 2010 Gibbs & Soell Sense & Sustainability Study, conducted online in July by Harris Interactive on behalf of Gibbs & Soell.
The survey found that while corporate America has embarked on its journey toward sustainability, it still draws public skepticism. Only 29 percent of executives and 16 percent of consumers believe that a majority of businesses (“most,” “almost all,” or “all”) are committed to “going green,” defined as “improving the health of the environment by implementing more sustainable business practices, and/or offering environmentally-friendly products or services.”
Many executives (54 percent) and consumers (48 percent) believe only “some” businesses are committed to “going green.”
Financial inefficiency, market reluctance and unclear measurement are impeding the path to corporate sustainability. Executives cite insufficient return on investment (78 percent), consumers’ unwillingness to pay a premium for green products or services (71 percent), and difficulty in evaluating sustainability across a product life cycle (45 percent) as the top barriers to more businesses “going green.”
Shared duties reflect the nascent stage at which many businesses are organizing their human capital around a sustainability strategy. While more than two-thirds of executives (69 percent) indicated their companies have people responsible for sustainability or “going green” initiatives, most have merely added responsibilities for green efforts to the primary duties of a team of individuals (35 percent), or a C-suite or another senior level position (15 percent).
Only about one in 10 say they have a C-suite or other senior level title/position dedicated solely to sustainability (12 percent), while 31 percent noted there is no one at their organization who is primarily or partially responsible for green initiatives.
“This general skepticism about the corporate commitment to environmental stewardship represents a critical communications challenge for business leaders,” says Ron Loch, senior vice president in the green tech and sustainability practice, Gibbs & Soell. “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.
“There is a wealth of evidence indicating the business value of pursuing sustainability. This study highlights the need for chief executives to evaluate the messages they are sending and to equip themselves with a communications strategy that addresses their organization’s full range of stakeholders in order to chart a more direct path toward sustainability and business growth.”