The results from our sixth annual BSR/GlobeScan State of Sustainable Business Survey 2014, released today, clearly highlight a recurrent challenge: Only one-fifth (19 percent) of the more than 700 survey respondents believe that the public has a high level of trust in business. While this number may seem dismally low, here’s the good news: Increased transparency was mentioned spontaneously by a majority of respondents as the best solution to the pervasive lack of trust in business. This resonates well with all of us at BSR, as the theme of our annual BSR Conference 2014 in New York next week is “Transparency and Transformation.”
With input from hundreds of business leaders within BSR’s global membership network, the survey provides insights into the world of sustainable business and tracks the successes and challenges that corporate sustainability professionals face. The findings also provide a helpful global perspective: Just under half of the respondents reside in North America, one quarter in Europe, and the rest across Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.
Of course, transparency itself is not a panacea. It is crucial to understand the key sustainability issues for business, which will help focus companies’ efforts to improve transparency and performance. In this regard, the surveys have been quite consistent: For the sixth year running, practitioners identify human rights, workers' rights, and climate change as the top three sustainability priorities for their companies over the next year. Similarly, integrating sustainability into the core of the business remains the most significant leadership challenge that companies face.
For the first time, BSR included more detailed questions in the survey on our two thematic priorities: Business in a Climate-Constrained World and Business Leadership for an Inclusive Economy. It was encouraging that the majority of practitioners say that their companies will either maintain or increase their focus on both climate adaptation and mitigation over the coming 12 months, and that nearly half of respondents outside the United States and Europe have significantly increased their understanding of climate risk in the last year. Of the economic challenges evaluated in the survey, respondents identified international political instability and labor issues as having the greatest potential impact on business.
The year ahead is a crucial one in the sustainability field, with key international moments: the COP 21 climate talks in Paris and the launch of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. We look forward to next year’s survey, when we will evaluate the progress that has been made on the issues identified in the survey, and assess how international policy and development guidelines influence corporate action and transparency.
View the results of the BSR/GlobeScan State of Sustainable Business Survey 2014.