According to a new survey by global consulting firm, Deloitte, almost all companies want to be more sustainable, with 92% of all CEO respondents agreeing with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Whilst only 17% of those surveyed say they are actually doing something about it. But the reason for the disconnection between concept and action has nothing to do with complaicancy; the reality is that many brands and businesses are unsure of how to carry out the mandate for corporate social responsibility.
Another localised study taking data from UK based small business owners back this, revealing that 70% of SMEs are struggling to turn their environmental ambitions into action. So it’s clear that the problem is existent for companies of all sizes.
Environmental Issues and Brand Campaigns
One area where businesses have successfully promoted corporate social responsibility is within retail. This campaign below by Yoox promotes a new product line by collaborating with the Great Barrier Reef Foundation, with a percentage of proceeds going to the charity for future conservation projects. The sentiment and sensitivity to the planet appeal to Millennials and Generation Z consumer groups, and have a big impact through social media channels.
Another example is seeing multinational corporations, such as Coca Cola, reshaping their brand through responsible practices and sharing these actions via multimedia channels such as YouTube. Changing the way a household brand is perceived by the younger generations is important for securing a safe position in the market for the future.
Whilst these efforts are helping to set a precedent for other brands and businesses to follow suit and are great for branding purposes and connecting with the intended audience, there are many more issues concerning sustainability that need to be looked at. And one of the biggest reservations is the time and cost involved in making the changes.
The Barriers of Building a Sustainable Business
The most common barrier to going green is the belief that sustainable practices are too costly to introduce. This was a concern shared by more than 40% of the CEOs surveyed in the UK. And according to the Deloitte survey (which was based on responses from 350 executives from multiple countries), CEOs feel that they are faced with pressures to serve their stakeholders and money-hungry investors.
The survey also revealed that two thirds of CEOs pinpointed “progress toward inclusive growth/sustainability” as a main concern, even more so than things such as customer relationships, customer loyalty or staff retention. Around a third of the business leaders interviewed also agreed that having the right environmental and social initiatives in place could improve government relations and boost internal creativity. Yet adopting new ways of working still remains a problem.
Millennial Workers Are a Focus for Companies
Another key topic raised by the global survey by Deloitte is that Millennials need to be a collaborative part of the process. Not only are they the new customers, business partners and executives of the future, but they are also the internal influencers. Yet very surprisingly, only 17% of execs interviewed for the Deloitte study agreed that attracting and retaining millennial staff was a priority.
This was an interesting contrast that could highlight the biggest barrier; as surveys in the past have often found young and fresh talent to be a key focus for companies looking to adopt CSR.
Find out more about the survey on the Fast Company website.