Chief Executives Believe Overwhelmingly That Sustainability Has Become Critical to their Success, And Could Be Fully Embedded Into Core Business Within Ten Years

UN Global Compact and Accenture Release Findings of Largest CEO Research Study on Corporate Sustainability

NEW YORK; June 22, 2010 – In spite of the recent economic downturn, an overwhelming majority of corporate CEOs – 93 percent – say that sustainability will be critical to the future success of their companies. Furthermore, CEOs believe that, within a decade, a tipping point could be reached that fully meshes sustainability with core business – its capabilities, processes and systems, and throughout global supply chains and subsidiaries.

These are among the key findings of a survey of 766 CEOs around the globe – the largest such research study of top executives ever conducted on the topic of sustainability – released today by the United Nations Global Compact and Accenture (NYSE: ACN). In addition to an online survey, the study included extensive interviews with 50 of the world’s leading CEOs.

According to the survey, A New Era of Sustainability: UN Global Compact-Accenture CEO Study 2010, the global economic downturn did little to dampen corporate commitment to sustainability. In fact it seems to have done the opposite: 80 percent of the CEOs say the downturn has raised the importance of sustainability. As businesses address the challenges of the financial crisis, sustainability is being recognized as a source of cost efficiencies and revenue growth. Additionally, many companies view sustainability as a critical element in driving growth in new markets as they look toward economic recovery.

The survey results indicate that businesses are taking sustainability more seriously. In a similar survey conducted in 2007, 50 percent of the CEO respondents said that sustainability issues had become part of their company’s strategy and operations. In the 2010 survey, that number jumped to 81 percent.

While recognizing the scale and complexity of global challenges, many CEOs say there has been progress over the past three years in making the transition from developing a sustainability strategy to execution.

CEOs cited several barriers to achieving their sustainability goals, including:

CEOs also believe that several conditions must be met before sustainability can be fully integrated into a company’s core business, and that businesses need to take a leadership role in bringing them about. Business action will be required in five key areas:

On the issue of creating a friendlier investor environment for business sustainability, fewer than 50 percent of the executives surveyed (who work for listed companies) indicated that sustainability informs their discussions with financial analysts. Even though CEOs overwhelmingly believe their sustainability activities have a positive impact on their company’s valuation – in terms of revenue growth, lower costs, reduced risks and enhanced brand reputation – quantifying that value with traditional metrics such as cost reduction and revenue growth has been elusive.

“Achieving greater environmental and social sustainability takes time, effort and a sincere leadership commitment,” said Georg Kell, Executive Director of the UN Global Compact. “Two-thirds of the CEOs we surveyed are looking to the Global Compact as a forum for sharing best practices and emerging ideas on sustainability, and we look forward to helping guide their efforts to develop effective policies and tangible practices.”

Warming investors to the notion that sustainability is good for the bottom line and regaining trust of all stakeholders in the wake of the global financial crisis are other critical issues CEOs face, according to the survey.

“CEOs told us they have by necessity been on the defensive during the downturn, but that they feel now is the time to get on the front foot in aligning sustainability with core business strategy and execution” said Mark Foster, Accenture’s group chief executive, Management Consulting and Global Markets. “Business leaders recognize they are going to have to take a real lead, for example, holding the line on sustainability in their business models; tackling the roadblocks with diligence in tough to crack areas like supply chain and performance management; and working hard to respond to and shape customer demands that turn sustainability into an opportunity for growth and innovation.”

According to the survey findings, three corporate attributes – brand, trust and reputation – were by far the primary considerations CEOs cited for acting on sustainability. They were identified by 72 percent of the respondents as one of their biggest motivators, followed in descending order by: the potential for revenue growth and cost reduction (cited by 44 percent), personal motivation (42 percent), consumer and customer demand (39 percent) and employee engagement and retention (31 percent).


Among the survey’s additional findings:

“It is clear from the survey results that global business has its work cut out in order to build sustainability programs that become key components of a company’s core business,” said Peter Lacy, who led the study and is managing director, Sustainability Services at Accenture for Europe, Africa and Latin America. “If sustainability does become fully integrated into global businesses within the next decade, the regulatory, technology, investment and consumer changes required will be staggering, creating significant winners and losers across businesses and industries.

“However, it’s great to see that some progress is being made, and that the movement toward a more sustainable economy and business context is clearly gaining momentum.”

About the United Nations Global Compact Launched in 2000, the United Nations Global Compact is a call to companies around the world to align their strategies and operations with ten universal principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption, and to take action in support of broader UN goals. Through the development, implementation, and disclosure of responsible corporate policies and practices, business can help ensure that markets advance in ways that benefit economies and societies everywhere. The Global Compact is not a regulatory body, but a voluntary leadership platform for dialogue and learning. With more than 8,200 signatories in more than 135 countries, it is the world’s largest corporate responsibility initiative. More information:

2010 UN Global Compact Leaders Summit: Building a New Era of Sustainability
24-25 June 2010, New York
Chaired by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the UN Global Compact Leaders Summit 2010 will bring together more than 1,200 leaders from all sectors to elevate the role of responsible business and investment in bringing about the needed transformation to more sustainable and inclusive markets. More information:

About Accenture

Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, with more than 181,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries. Combining unparalleled experience, comprehensive capabilities across all industries and business functions, and extensive research on the world’s most successful companies, Accenture collaborates with clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. The company generated net revenues of US$21.58 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2009. Its home page is

# # #


Chris Allieri
+1 (917) 452-5161
+1 (646) 245-8937 (mobile)

Matthias Stausberg

UN Global Compact

+1 (917) 367-3423

+1 (917) 214-1337 (mobile)