Sustainability has become a front-seat issue for brands and businesses today, but execs can’t help but wonder: how does it impact the bottom line? New research from NTT reveals that nearly half (44 percent) of companies experience improved profitability as a result of sustainability.
The firm’s new study, Innovating for a Sustainable Future, in partnership with ThoughtLab, aims to identify the most effective business practices to advance sustainability goals. The results indicate that sustainability programs are now both an ethical and a business imperative to drive positive change and deliver better financial results. Additionally, 69 percent of global executives agree that digital innovation is key to achieving sustainability goals across environmental, social and economic areas.
The global study of 500 companies examines how firms incorporate sustainability into their business strategies and the outcomes they are experiencing.
Highlights of the new research:
- The survey finds that now more than ever, organizations are taking sustainability practices seriously. Of the organizations surveyed, 68 percent report that building a sustainable future is a top priority for their boards.
- The pandemic proved to be a watershed moment for many organizations, with 47 percent stating that the pandemic elevated the importance of sustainability goals.
- Among the top benefits as a result of sustainability initiatives, 33 percent of organizations experience decreased costs through improved efficiencies, 32 percent experience greater innovation and/or new business models and 24 percent experience increased revenue growth.
- Only 12 percent of organizations worldwide indicate that sustainability is mostly “lip service” and nearly four out of ten companies state that customers, employees, shareholders and communities expect them to drive positive change.
“As the global population refocuses its attention on the health and wellbeing of people and the planet, we have seen a renewed commitment from organizations to implement and advance sustainable business practices,” said Vito Mabrucco, head of global marketing at NTT, in a news release. “At the same time, the health of people versus the health of profits is not an either-or-decision; sustainability and profitability are becoming mutually reliant.”
The report defines “sustainable development” in accordance with the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a blueprint for creating a more sustainable future by 2030. NTT has aligned its business objectives with these SDGs, which cover three key categories: social good, environment, and economic growth and development.
As part of the survey, the researchers grouped companies into three maturity categories (beginners, intermediates and advanced/leaders) based on their progress within a framework of 10 initiatives for driving sustainable innovation:
Looking exclusively at the achievements from leaders, the study outlines a set of best practices based off of the analysis of the study to help organizations achieve their sustainability goals. These best practices include:
Build the foundation for sustainability excellence
Set a clear sustainability vision, strategy and organizational structure; monitor performance against sustainability metrics; and incorporate sustainability deep into the business.
Harness digital innovation to drive sustainability results
For leaders, sustainability and digital innovation are two sides of the same coin. Leaders draw more on digital technologies, particularly the cloud, AI and IoT, and understand that the best results come from interconnecting them.
Build partnerships that work together to deliver on common sustainability goals
Leaders not only work more closely with supply chains; they also develop ties with a wider range of partners, from multilateral organizations and NGOs to industry and consumer groups.
The publishing of the study coincides with the launch of NTT’s Innovation for a Sustainable Future program. Designed to showcase the positive impact of technology, digital transformation and R&D to deliver sustainability and social benefits, the program outlines the intersection of technology innovation and the need for long term sustainability. As part of the program, NTT will provide organizations with information and resources to implement sustainability practices through strategic technology investments and innovation. The goal is for organizations of all sizes to contribute to long-term sustainability that positively impacts people, the planet and prosperity.
To determine how organizations are incorporating sustainability into their business strategies as well as the outcomes of those implementations, NTT and ThoughtLab conducted a comprehensive survey of executives from 500 companies across seven industries and eight world markets from September – October 2021.