Sustainability Leadership in the Digital Era: Going Beyond Compliance to Drive Innovation and Impact

Discover how sustainability leadership is evolving in the digital era, as organizations go beyond compliance to develop innovative business models with sustainability at their core.

The sustainability landscape is rapidly evolving, requiring organizations to move beyond mere compliance and embrace innovative business models with sustainability at their core. According to the latest research from GlobeScan and the SustainAbility Institute by ERM, sustainability leadership now demands a forward-thinking approach that goes beyond traditional boundaries. As CIOs, it is crucial to understand the key developments, drivers, and challenges in sustainable development to guide your organization towards a successful and impactful sustainability strategy.

Legislative actions and standardization of sustainability-related disclosures have emerged as pivotal developments over the past year. Moreover, the upcoming COP15 biodiversity framework and business actions are shaping the sustainability agenda. The GlobeScan/SustainAbility Survey: 2023 Sustainability Leaders, which surveyed over 500 sustainability professionals from various sectors across 63 countries, sheds light on the evolving sustainability landscape.

Asia Pacific Highlights: Key Sustainability Developments

According to the survey, sustainability leaders in the Asia-Pacific region recognize legislation and business actions towards sustainability as the most significant positive development. This is closely followed by sustainability disclosure standards and renewables and carbon-related advancements. These findings highlight the increasing importance of integrating sustainability into business models and strategies, setting ambitious targets, and providing evidence of impact and action to demonstrate leadership.

Notable Corporate Sustainability Leaders in Asia-Pacific

Mahindra & Mahindra has risen to the top spot as the region’s corporate leader in sustainability, followed by City Developments Ltd. and PTT Global. Tata, which led the pack in 2022, has now dropped to fourth place. Other notable corporate sustainability leaders in the region include Charoen Pokphand Group, Samsung, Swire, Toyota, Kao, and SCG. These organizations serve as inspiring examples of how sustainability can be effectively integrated into business practices.

Urgency of Sustainable Development Challenges and Recent Breakthroughs

Climate change remains the most urgent challenge, with 93% of sustainability experts ranking it as a top priority. The survey also introduced deforestation as a new concern, ranking among the top five urgent issues. Biodiversity loss, water scarcity, and poverty consistently rank high in urgency over the past five years. From a global perspective, experts point to new sustainability legislation, disclosure standards, the COP15 biodiversity agreement, business actions, and the rise of green financing as significant breakthroughs in the sustainability agenda.

Driving Sustainability Leadership: Tangible Impact and Ambitious Goals

As CIOs, it is vital to understand what drives sustainability leadership within organizations. The survey reveals that integrating sustainability into business models and strategies is considered the most important driver, followed by evidence of impact and action, and setting ambitious targets. This aligns with the views of counterparts from Europe, North and Latin America. Recognizing and prioritizing these factors will help your organization maintain its status as a sustainability leader.

Company and NGO Leadership on Sustainable Development

For the first time in the survey, Patagonia takes the top spot as the most recognized company for its work on sustainability, surpassing Unilever, which held the position for over a decade. Other globally recognized sustainability leaders include IKEA, Natura &Co, and Microsoft. When asked to identify regional sustainability leaders, different names emerged, highlighting the diversity of sustainability efforts across regions. Safaricom, Nedbank, and Woolworths were recognized in Africa and the Middle East, while Natura &Co emerged as a standout leader in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Among NGOs, the World Wildlife Fund continues to be overwhelmingly recognized as the leader in sustainable development, closely followed by Greenpeace and organizations tied to the United Nations, such as the Global Compact and the World Resources Institute.

Embracing the Future of Sustainable Business

As the sustainability landscape continues to evolve, companies are compelled to push boundaries and embrace sustainability as a core aspect of their operations. Mahindra & Mahindra, Patagonia, and other recognized sustainability leaders exemplify the integration of sustainability into their business strategies. By aligning your organization’s vision with ambitious sustainability goals, prioritizing tangible impact, and staying informed about regulatory developments, CIOs can drive their organizations towards sustainable success in a rapidly changing world.