“Sustainability enables businesses to cope with disruption,” said Kristin Moyer, Distinguished VP Analyst at Gartner, which conducted the research. “Economic uncertainty, geopolitical conflict and escalating materials and energy costs are forcing businesses to reexamine all forms of expenditure. This focus on essentialism, in combination with increasing stakeholder desire to see progress on environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals, creates new opportunities for enterprises to grow while mitigating cost and risk.”
The survey was conducted in June and July 2022 among 221 respondents in North America, Europe and Asia/Pacific. Respondents were executives in director roles or above within organizations with enterprise-wide annual revenue of at least $250 million for fiscal year 2021, which are currently engaged in sustainability-related activities.
It found that 86% of business leaders see sustainability as an investment which protects their organization from disruption. Additionally, 83% said sustainability program activities directly created both short- and long-term value for their organization, and 80% indicated that sustainability helped their organization optimize and reduce costs.
Specifically, the top areas where survey respondents said sustainability programs are mitigating cost increases are energy consumption, business travel and customer transactions (see Figure 1).
Fig. 1. Top Operations-Related Costs Being Mitigated Through Sustainability Programs
Sustainability Drives Growth and Innovation
Sustainability can also enable new value creation and business growth opportunities. Fifty-seven percent of business leaders said the enterprise sustainability program has a strong connection to the results on the income statement, and 42% of respondents are leveraging their sustainability activities to drive innovation, differentiation and enterprise growth through sustainable products.
“Investing in sustainability can support product differentiation but be wary of greenwashing risks – there are no shortcuts to sustainable growth,” said Moyer. “Focus on product attributes that are important to customers and how these priorities shape buying decisions. When viewed through a strategic lens, sustainability can provide a ray of sunshine for businesses during difficult market conditions.”