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CEOs 2013 Perspective: Businesses Should Lead on Solving Global Sustainability Issues

The UN Global Compact and Accenture released their third joint report on the perspectives of CEOs on sustainability. The research is based on 130 in-depth interviews with global business leaders and an online survey of 1,000 CEOs across 103 countries and 27 industry sectors. Their last report (2010) highlighted a strong belief that a “peak” of sustainable development was on the horizon, where its priorities are fully embedded into organizations and markets. However, in this report, CEOs express a tone of frustration and a belief that the economy has reached a plateau of progress, stifled by a need for radical changes to market structures and dynamics. In general, CEOs believe that although sustainability has an established priority on the leadership agenda, the global economy is not on track to meet our future resource needs. The results are not fully pessimistic, as CEOs can see the beginnings of the collaborative systems approach to sustainability, focused on value creation. The study highlights the following opinions:

  • 63% of CEOs expect sustainability to transform their industry within five years
  • 76% believe that embedding sustainability into core business will drive revenue growth and new opportunities
  • 84% of CEOs believe that business should lead efforts to define and deliver new goals on global priority issues
  • 76% of CEOs are satisfied with the speed and effectiveness of execution on their own company’s sustainability strategy.”
  • Only 32% believe that “the global economy is on track to meet the demands of a growing population within global environmental and resource constraints”

The report makes it clear that CEOs generally value sustainability and that the private sector should lead the effort. They are also generally satisfied with their own efforts but feel that global progress has hit a plateau. According to global leaders, the disconnect between individual effort and necessary progress lies in a lack of collaboration and the need for a “global architecture to unlock the full potential of business”.