65% of organisations have made public commitments to sustainability, but are they deliverable?

04 January 2024 by Liam Goldsworthy
blog author

​Public commitments to sustainability have now been made by 65 per cent of respondents’ organisations, according to findings from The 2023/24 Sustainability Census.

Respondents across the industry in the UK, Europe, North America and Asia, spanning sectors including financial services, transport & infrastructure, consumer goods and property & real estate, took part in this year’s bigger-than-ever sustainability census to unpack the true state of the sustainability profession. They were asked a variety of questions, including whether their organisation had made public commitments to sustainability/ESG/net zero.

Most respondents confirmed that their organisations had made public pledges to sustainability, with the retail sector leading the way at 81 per cent who responded favourably. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, given the multitude of stakeholders pressuring retailers, the maturity of the sector, and its consumer-facing nature.

While a public commitment to sustainability may be deemed a noble indicator of a positive future, it is only truly effective when action is taken to meet the set goals.

The report also reveals that there is scepticism surrounding respondents’ faith in their organisations’ ability to achieve their targets within the timeframes set. Respondents from the retail sector, while ahead on public pledges to sustainability, aren’t overly confident the targets will be met in time, with just 30 per cent of respondents in that sector feeling confident.

Maurice Loosschilder, the Global Head of Sustainability at Signify, who contributed to the Sustainability Census (pg 16), had this to say:

“Corporate sustainability is reaching a new phase of maturity where it is no longer enough to state goals. We must also demonstrate that our actions are effective in terms of absolute impact. This can be achieved with a combination of short and long-term goals: goals with a short enough horizon to achieve something without delay, and long-term goals to keep focus and ensure long-term positive impact.

“Both long-term and short-term goals must be ambitious, but they must also be achievable. The census also shows that sustainability professionals have little confidence in organisations’ ability to meet their targets.

“This lack of confidence risks undermining successful implementation and execution of these programmes. Organisations in this position must take a proactive approach to ensure that they reach their targets and commitments and keep progress visible and on track.”

Liam Goldsworthy, Head of Consumer Goods & Retail – Sustainable Business, Acre UK, said: “Whilst it’s promising to see a high proportion of organisations in the sector making public sustainability commitments, this is only one contributing factor to progress and true change. The associated implementation, culture change and transformation that sustainability professionals are trying to catalyse within the space is where the true challenges arise, and this is where we see a notable lack of confidence in their organisation’s ability to meet these ambitions.

“It will be interesting to see what 2024 holds amid a backdrop of increasing legislation. Where many fear that this will absorb significant time and resource, potentially stalling the work that needs to take place in order for businesses to transform, my faith rests in the innovative and creative professionals tasked with leading this change. Time and time again, sustainability professionals rise in the face of adversity.”

For more information about this and other findings from The 2023/24 Sustainability Census report, including how respondents from Asia seek to bolster their teams with specialised skillsets, please click here to download a free copy.