Pandemic prompts upsurge in commitment to corporate sustainability

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The engineering sector is one of many optimistic about the growing importance of sustainability as a corporate priority, a new report claims.

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According to research commissioned by the Carbon Trust, over 70 per cent of companies interviewed said environmental management and/or sustainability priorities are likely to become ‘somewhat more important’ or ‘significantly more important’ for them as a result of Covid-19.

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Of those companies experiencing significant disruption, 69 per cent expect environmental management and/or sustainability to become ‘somewhat’ or ‘significantly more important’.

The Carbon Trust’s ‘Corporate attitudes towards sustainability’ research saw 453 interviews conducted in July, 2020 with large companies in Britain, Germany, France, Mexico, Singapore, and Spain.

“The findings of this research are consistent with what we are seeing in the market,” said Hugh Jones, Managing Director, Advisory at the Carbon Trust. “Sustainability is rightly a growing business priority and the increasing demand for our services aimed at helping corporates to decarbonise and adapt for the future demonstrates that, despite extremely challenging market conditions, this is one area that businesses are continuing to prioritise.”

Three quarters of organisations interviewed had been negatively impacted by Covid-19 with four per cent saying it represented a threat from which they may not recover, while 32 per cent said they had been significantly impacted by the pandemic, with operations heavily impaired, or sales/revenue badly impacted.

Large companies in Germany and Mexico are most likely to think their sustainability priorities will become more important as a result of the pandemic (82 per cent and 79 per cent respectively) with sustainability covering the use of natural resources and the reduction of environmental impact across the organisation.

According to the research, sectors most optimistic about the growing importance of sustainability as a corporate priority are wholesale and retail, construction, engineering and mining, manufacturing, and healthcare. A third of companies expect there to be no change or that environmental management/sustainability will become less important.

“Organisations around the world are considering their role in delivering a green recovery – achieving net zero targets at the same time as fostering economic activity,” said Jones. “We know from working with corporate clients on their net zero targets and strategies, that many will be leading the way when it comes to achieving green growth and these research findings support this. Without corporate commitment a green recovery will be challenging to deliver so the research is great news.”

Budgets for sustainability are also expected to increase as a result of Covid-19, with 63 per cent of those interviewed indicating that their budgets will get ‘significantly’ or ‘somewhat bigger’ and only 16 per cent said they would be ‘somewhat smaller’.

Three quarters believe that sustainability will become more important to their customers as a result of Covid-19 – with almost a third saying it will become ‘significantly more important for their customers’ – and this is especially the case in Mexico (82 per cent), Germany (81 per cent) and Spain (79 per cent). Compared to 2019, all trackable markets have seen environmental management/sustainability become more of a priority for organisations, particularly in Germany.

The corporate response to Covid-19 and the economic challenges that it has created will be a key focus for the Carbon Trust’s Corporate Sustainability Summit taking place virtually today, October 14, 2020.