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Unilever tops international sustainability leaders list

21 May 2014
Unilever tops international sustainability leaders list

LONDON: Unilever has for the fourth year running been named the number one sustainability leader, while partners of The Climate Group, Nike and IKEA, place in the top 12, according to the 2014 Sustainability Leaders report.

The study, which is a joint initiative by research consultancy, GlobeScan and think-tank, SustainAbility, charts perception of corporate brands by expert stakeholders from business, government, NGOs, and academia across 87 countries.

All survey respondents have at least three years sustainability experience, while 68% of participants have more than ten years of experience working in the sector.

The results of the international survey show that Unilever still retains the prime position, with 33% of the 887 specialist respondents stating that the corporate is a “leader in integrating sustainability into its business strategy.”Interestingly, the corporate giant was the only company listed to have increased its global influence this year and now leads the market by a signigicant gap.

Other prominent companies such as Nestle, GE, Coke Cola and Walmart also feature in the top 12.

sustainability leaders

This year represents the 20th anniversary of the first Sustainability Leaders report in 1994, and the analysts are keen to stress how the green business agenda has evolved during that time frame.

Eric Whan, Director of Sustainability at GlobeScan, said: “Comparing the current crop of recognized leaders with those from a decade ago, we see that we have moved from an era of ‘do no harm’ leadership where risk management was the dominant framework to one where early stages of transformation are emerging.”

The factors which motivate companies to adopt eco-friendly agendas are actually the same as they were when the survey was first undertaken in 1994. Competitive pressure and green consumerism remain the decisive factors for adoptation of sustainable development principles by business, the survey reveals.

One of the main challenges for corporate sustainability is ensuring that ambitious plans are actually enacted and that efforts are routinely updated and expanded. While companies such as Dow, Shell and The Body Shop all topped the list back in 1997, none were identified as top sustainability leaders in 2014.

sustainability leaders

The report’s authors are keen to stress that time is of the essence when it comes to corporate engagement with climate change. “The science is clear, the business case is strong, and the ethical obligations are obvious: we simply do not have another 20 years to achieve significant wins on pressing sustainability issues,” the analysts elucidate.

Ben Ferrari, Head of Partnerships at The Climate Group, remarked: “The Sustainability Leaders report is a comprehensive and highly relevant report which highlights the corporate drivers of today’s global Clean Revolution. By charting the development of corporate sustainability since 1997, this detailed study showcases the evolution of the low carbon business model and offers insight into its future direction.”

“We are extremely proud to be working with two of the top 12 companies: IKEA and Nike, and it is thanks to their leadership and commitment that more and more companies are seeing the unequivocal advantages of low carbon business”, Mr. Ferrari added.

Graphs are courtesy of the 2014 Sustainability Leaders Report

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