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Climate change key for business leaders

AP Moller-MaerskSAN FRANCISCO: A new survey of 700 members of the Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) network (including A.P. Moller-Maersk) has highlighted the importance of collaboration among business and external stakeholders to address climate change.

“The survey reveals both the sense of urgency to address climate change, and the sense that meaningful progress goes well beyond the steps a single company can take,” observed Aron Cramer, president and CEO of BSR.  “No one sector—not business, government, civil society, or consumers—can ‘save us’ from climate change. The survey demonstrates a maturing understanding of this truth, and the need to generate truly collaborative solutions through creativity and new approaches.”

Other survey results suggest only 20 percent of respondents have fully integrated sustainability into their businesses, while engagement between sustainability functions and corporate functions such as marketing, R&D, and finance remains very low. However a majority said that their company is either about halfway to integration (51 percent), or is just getting started (22 percent).

When asked about the most important leadership challenge today, 62 percent of those surveyed noted the integration of sustainability into core business operations. This was far higher than the next most frequently cited challenge, convincing investors about the value of sustainability (28 percent).

The challenge of integrating sustainability throughout the business is reinforced by evidence that sustainability professionals continue to have low levels of engagement with their colleagues in other functions.

Chris Coulter, CEO of GlobeScan, which carried out the annual survey on behalf of the BSR, noted: “The trend toward weaker engagement between sustainability functions and core functions such as finance, marketing, HR, investor relations, and R&D, is concerning. Not only is engagement limited with these strategic areas, but collaboration between them and sustainability teams has declined—in some cases by a significant margin. While there is a clear need for external collaboration, there is an equally important case to be made for greater internal collaboration.”

The survey revealed continued high levels of engagement between sustainability functions and their counterparts in corporate communications. A majority of those surveyed said they engage regularly with corporate communications (75 percent, down two points from 2011), public affairs (66 percent, down two points), supply chain (64 percent, no change), and the CEO’s office (59 percent, down one point).

BSR members said their most frequent type of external stakeholder collaboration is with NGOs at 76 percent while 75 percent collaborate with industry associations and 70 percent with other companies. Government and the Media are seen as the most difficult to work with at 46 percent and 27 percent respectively.

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