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Sustainability is not gaining buy-in

Companies that choose to enact regional sustainability programmes have
trouble achieving management buy-in, while those plumping for a global approach
wrestle with the additional regulatory burden across their enterprise, a
study
has found.

Of the 226 executives surveyed across the world, 54% had taken a regional
sustainability approach, while 46% took a global structure. Interestingly, 65%
of respondents thought a regional focus worked better, while 60% of those
operating a regional approach now planned to roll out a global sustainability
plan.

The study by the
Economist
Intelligence Unit
and software and analytics company
SAS
found that the more commonly favoured regional approach did not gain the
attention of corporate-level managers. This frequently led to those companies
ranking themselves lower in sustainability effectiveness than those with a
global outlook. Conversely, those taking the global approach had to manage the
extent of sustainability regulation at home and in each of their jurisdictions.

“Sustainability has entered mainstream corporate practice worldwide ­
policies such as recycling of waste and improvements in energy efficiency have
become widespread,” the report says. “Yet companies are still grappling with how
to structure their programmes to ensure they are effective in delivering on
their sustainability goals, while meeting key financial benchmarks.”

Objectives and obstacles
• Regional programmes find it harder to engage the support of board members as
opposed to global initiatives, which are generally backed by executives before
implementation.
• Integrating a global sustainability initiative across the business poses
complexity issues in adopting a unified programme. The report includes that
planning and patience is essential to achieving this target.
• A company must measure and monitor initiatives; establishing and evaluating
targets provide a business with the ability to benchmark and constantly improve
sustainability performance.
• Companies that are taking a global approach need to be aware that
sustainability solutions applicable to the developed world may not be suitable
for developing nations. Businesses should work on their due diligence to make
sure programmes are inclusive of global best practice, rather than imposing
developed-world thinking on their developing-world operations.

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