Sustainability for business isn’t just an environmental issue; that’s just the “E” part of ESG. Then there’s the “S” concept of social sustainability—the practice of respecting human rights and improving people’s lives through business, policy, and community actions—and new research from NTT Corporation finds that large enterprises investing in it see an average increase in revenue of $710 million.
The firm’s new The Business Case for Social Sustainability study, conducted in collaboration with ThoughtLab, also reveals that leading firms in social sustainability see an 11.4 percent increase in employee productivity and unlock approximately $675 billion in gross domestic product (GDP) across eight countries and five industries. The report provides a roadmap designed to help businesses maximize the value of their social sustainability investments.
Percentage of respondents citing financial benefits:
Key survey findings include:
- 40 percent of companies integrate social sustainability goals and enforce supplier compliance.
- All categories of companies report an average 8 percent revenue increase and 10 percent productivity increase from social sustainability initiatives.
- Advanced social sustainability leaders experience nearly a 10 percent revenue increase.
- Over 50 percent of social sustainability leaders expect increased revenue and profitability in the next two years.
- 62 percent of companies plan to increase social sustainability spending by an average of 6 percent.
“Now more than ever, businesses are hearing demands from across the value chain for forward-thinking, inclusive and socially impactful operations,” said NTT’s Kaoru Asakura, vice president, head of Sustainability Office, Corporate Strategy Planning Department, in a news release. “This study proves that investment in social sustainability is in the interest of both businesses and the broader society. This is why NTT has set its mid-term strategy with a focus on innovating a sustainable future for people and the planet.”
Percentage of respondents citing strategic benefits:
Building a socially sustainable enterprise
Social sustainability investment builds trust in companies’ brands and improves credibility. The most successful companies surveyed spent around $20 million on their social sustainability initiatives in the last year, tracking success from procurement to investment decision making.
Based on survey findings, the firms created a framework of actions, with additional details in the report, for organizations wanting to improve social sustainability efforts, including:
- Understand and communicate the business case for social sustainability.
- Build the foundation for social sustainability excellence.
- Extend social sustainability across the supply chain.
- Build partnerships to deliver on common goals and multiply results.
- Harness digital technologies to drive sustainability results.
Role of technology across industries
The survey also found that business leaders in social sustainability employ more technologies than less advanced firms across a range of uses. Additionally, leading enterprises are more widely adopting advanced technologies, such as the cloud, smart sensors, advanced analytics for hazards and diversity, enterprise resource planning (ERP) and artificial intelligence (AI).
The survey aligns with NTT’s Innovation for a Sustainable Future program which showcases the positive impact of technology, digital transformation, and R&D in achieving sustainability and social benefits. The program aims to empower organizations of all sizes to contribute to long-term sustainability for nature, wellbeing and prosperity.
Benefits that will increase the most (percentage point rise):
The international survey comprised 250 senior executives from global organizations earning over $1 billion in revenue. The organizations were divided into three categories (Beginner/Intermediate /Advanced) based on an analytical framework that measured progress against 10 key initiatives in social sustainability.