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Despite sustainability being hailed as a key area of busines focus by C-level executives, research has revealed that it is one of the lowest areas of investment for enterprises.
That is according to research commissioned by Google Cloud, which featured responses from about 1,500 C-level executives from 16 countries across Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), including the UK.
The vast majority of respondents (90%) name-checked environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives as being a top organisational priority for their enterprises, with the UK participants in the poll giving themselves an above-average rating for their efforts on this front.
But the research also revealed that businesses across EMEA are allocating 9% of their budget towards ESG initiatives, with this figure dropping to 8% for UK firms.
At the same time, the research showed that firms have little insight into how effective the sustainability initiatives they have rolled out are because relatively few have measurement tools in place to track the impact of their actions.
To this point, 36% of respondents to the Google Cloud poll said they have methods in place to quantify their sustainability efforts, and 17% of this group said they are using the insights gleaned to optimise their sustainability efforts.
“Without accurate measurement, it’s hard to report genuine progress,” said Justin Keeble, managing director for global sustainability at Google Cloud, in a blog post discussing the results. “The research showed a troubling gap between how well organisations think they are doing, and how accurately they are able to measure it.”
Also, 58% of participants said they agree that “green hypocrisy” exists within their organisations and acknowledge that their firms have overstated their sustainability efforts.
Some 71% of the UK respondents admitted that their organisations are guilty of “greenwashing”. This means their companies spend more time and money on marketing themselves as sustainable than on measures that would genuinely minimise the environmental impact of their activities.
Even so, the data suggests there is a big appetite within business to do a better job on sustainability, with 65% saying they want to make more progress on ESG but don’t know how to go about doing so.
“The good news is that it’s still early on many companies’ sustainability journey,” said Keeble. “The majority (more than half) of executives say they are in the planning and early implementation phases of sustainability programming, so there’s progress to be made.
“The challenging news is that the planet needs urgent action from everyone now to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.”