GlobeScan and SustainAbility surveyed sustainability experts from the corporate, government, NGO, institutional, and service sectors to develop the recently published 2015 Sustainability Leaders report. The report evaluates the sustainable development performance for global institutions since the 1993 Earth Summit. It represents a compilation of data retrieved across 82 countries.

There were 816 expert respondents to the online questionnaire distributed worldwide. The largest numbers of respondents were from Europe and North American. Of the respondent pool, 69 percent have more than ten years of experience working on sustainability issues, 24 percent have five to ten years of experience, 7 percent have three to four years of experience, and respondents with less than three years of experience were not included in the results.

Respondents ranked NGOs highest in sustainable development performance since 1992, followed by social entrepreneurs, and independent research and academic organizations. The lowest ranked organizations were international financial institutions and national governments, which were 10 and 11 respectively out of 11 organizational types.

The survey also asked respondents whom they perceived as having the greatest responsibility for paving the path to sustainability. National governments took first and the private sector second. That makes national governments the highest on the list of organizations that should be leading sustainable development and lowest on the list of organizations that are actually making strides towards sustainable development.

Experts in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and North America all noted that Unilever is the global business leader in sustainable business strategy. Patagonia, Interface, Marks and Spencer, Natura, and IKEA also took top ranks as business leaders. These companies were selected largely because they have integrated sustainability values into the business model.

The ability to effectively engage stakeholders and foster collaborative initiatives are the main qualities experts point to as setting NGOs apart from other organizational types in leading sustainable development. The next most important quality is seen as the ability to create programs that are influential and impactful. In all regions of the world experts ranked World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) as the top NGO worldwide, closely followed by Greenpeace.