Sustainability gaining priority in companies, survey finds

8 February 2023
Responsibility for sustainability anchored in the economy, but with room for improvement

Around 84 per cent of corporate executives in the real economy compared to 73 per cent of those in financial management have said that sustainability is now higher up the agenda, according to the Sustainability Transformation Monitor 2023 (STM) published Thursday (January 12, 2023). The annual survey was conducted by the University of Hamburg with the Bertelsmann Foundation, Stiftung Mercator and the Peer School for Sustainable Development. The aim is to analyse change processes in the real and financial economy and to identify drivers, success factors and obstacles to sustainability. 

Responsibility for sustainability frequently anchored

Almost half of respondents in the real economy (46 per cent) said the topic was "fully" or "predominantly" anchored in their company compared to 40 per cent of respondents in the financial sector. Responsibility for sustainability in the real economy lies mainly with the board of directors (about 58 per cent) compared to 49 per cent of respondents in the financial sector. Around 41 per cent of companies in the real economy have set up separate divisions for sustainability compared to 35.5 per cent of companies in financial management.

Cautiously optimistic

"The results of this first STM are cautiously optimistic. They show that the economy is definitely on the move when it comes to sustainability," said Laura Marie Edinger-Schons, Professor of Business Administration and Chief Sustainability Officer at the University of Hamburg. However, they also indicate a need for action in the real and financial economy as well as in politics. Effective interaction between stakeholders will be crucial in the coming years. "The direct comparison between the sectors shows that sustainability is somewhat more firmly anchored in the consciousness of the real economy than in financial management," said Jakob Kunzlmann, Sustainability Expert at the Bertelsmann Stiftung. Nevertheless, the trend points in a clear direction.

Need for action on resources 

Around 73 per cent of respondents in capital-market orientated companies are are keen on making companies more sustainable. However, there is still a need for action in terms of climate and sustainability goals, according to STM. Merely a third of companies in the real economy and only a quarter of those in the financial sector have outlined concrete climate goals. However, 43 per cent of companies in the real economy and 33 per cent in the financial sector a preparing such objectives. Around 64 per cent of respondents in the real economy pointed to a lack of resources compared to 33 per cent in the financial sector who also cited a lack of human resource. However, around 72 per cent of respondents agreed that the younger generation is the main driver of sustainability.


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