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Accenture finds 5 Major Obstacles to Systemic Implementation of Sustainability

October 8, 2010 – A new study issued by Accenture and the United Nations finds that while the overwhelming majority of business leaders believe that focusing on sustainability correlates with higher performance, the concept is still not woven into the operations fabric of businesses due to 5 critical obstacles.
The study, “Can business do well by doing good,” finds that 93 percent of CEOs surveyed globally see sustainability as important to their companies’ future success. Across a number of parameters, corporate commitment to sustainability has increased since the last time a similar CEO survey was conducted in 2007. The report also found that these CEO’s are caught between the long-term perspective needed to realize the benefits of sustainability and the short-term pressures of earnings results.
The greatest value provided by Accenture through this report is that it outlines 5 major dilemma’s faced by CEO’s when attempting to integrate sustainability into operational practices at their companies. The five dilemmas are:
  • Can I afford to invest in sustainability-oriented product and service lines when I’m getting mixed signals from consumers and enterprise customers?
  • How do I develop the right talent capabilities to manage sustainability as a core business, given the many things that I’m already asking my employees to do?
  • How can I move my business toward a new way of assessing corporate value that takes into account sustainability practices when the metrics are so elusive?
  • How can I make long-term sustainability investments when the regulatory environment is not clear or consistent within or across different countries?
  • Why should I invest in sustainability initiatives when there is no evidence that the investor community will reward me for it?
Only when sustainable business practices are factored accurately into valuations, through widely accepted metrics, will capital begin to flow to those companies that are most sustainable. Central to this transition is a paradigm shift in the concept of value and corporate valuation: from the short term to the long term, and from a purely business focus to a broader understanding of a business’s impact on society.
For more information on these issues, and to gain some insight into how Accenture suggests CEO’s approach these issues, read their report here.
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