Among a total of 8,651 respondents (including separate groups of consumers and top executives), concerted corporate action lagged behind awareness.

In an August/September 2023 survey of 2,151 top executives (at director level and above, from corporate functions and value chain functions) from 718 organizations worth more than $1bn in annual revenue in 13 countries  and 11 industries* on the topic of business sustainability, some key findings were cited.

In a context of record-high temperatures and with climate disasters on the rise, three times more respondents (63%) across industries were clear on the business case for sustainability compared to those in a previous year’s survey  (21%). A growing number also acknowledged the benefits of incorporating sustainable business practices and processes.

In addition, the percentage of respondents citing that the cost of sustainability initiatives outweighed the benefits, had dropped from 53% to 24%, and the numbers that felt sustainability initiatives were a financial burden had declined by more than half (from 53% to 22%).

Also, the data showed that regulatory pressures and expected returns on investment were key motivating factors for respondents adopting environmental and/or social sustainability strategies and initiatives: 74% of respondents cited hopes to increase future revenue (up from 52% in 2022), and 64% cited compliance with current regulation (up from 51% in 2022).

Other findings

Compared to respondents in the survey for 2022, 61% cited their firm having defined a priority list of sustainability initiatives to implement in the next three years (up from 49%); 57% cited that their organization was in the process of redesigning their business/operating model to be more sustainable (up from 37%). Also:

    • In the 2023 survey, the average annual investment in environmental sustainability initiatives and practices as a share of annual revenue of respondents across industries had increased by 0.01% compared to those of 2022.
    • The share of respondents indicated their organization had the ability to measure and collect data on scope 1 and 2 emissions had remained unchanged, year on year (since 2022, when the survey was first created).
    • For scope 3 emissions, the share had declined from 60% in 2022 to 51%. Action around sustainable product design saw “limited to no movement”.
    • 54% of respondents were also using third parties to audit sustainability data (up 4% since 2022 survey) but fewer were doing the same (year on year) to disclose and benchmark progress.
    • 56% of respondents indicated their organization was increasingly focused on the social dimension of environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG), with organizations’ own employees being the primary beneficiaries.
    • 64% indicated their organization considered the ESG ratings and environmental pledges taken by suppliers during supplier selection; 38% further cited that they only work with suppliers that pay a living wage.
    • 17% of respondents indicated believing that consumers are concerned by the risk of greenwashing; 33% of global consumers in the survey cited believing that organizations and brands were greenwashing their sustainability initiatives.
    • 45% of respondents from India (in the part of the survey involving only consumers) in India and 43% in Canada were the most suspicious of sustainability claims; those in the UK were the least suspicious (16%).
    • 50% of Generation Z respondents in the consumer survey were far more suspicious of sustainability claims compared to boomers (18%).
    • 49% of consumers in the survey cited “rarely” or “only sometimes” trusting an environmental claim about a purchase they were considering, with skepticism rising to 65% among Gen Z consumers.
    • 59% of executives in the non-consumer part of the survey cited believing that generative AI will play a key role in their organization’s sustainability transformation efforts; 57% indicated organization had started to take steps to mitigate the environmental impact of using generative AI models.

According to Cyril Garcia, Group Executive Board Member and Head of Global Sustainability Services and Corporate Responsibility, Capgemini, whose own research institute conducted the surveys: “The consequences of climate change are becoming impossible to ignore, and so is the future cost of not taking action. What we really need to see in the months to come is companies investing in future-proof sustainability measures and pivoting their business models to build sustainable products and services. It’s now or never for organizations: only those who will have invested early enough and put sustainability at the center of their strategy will be able to truly realize the benefits.”

And a separate cohort of 6,500 consumers (respondent profiles unspecified) over the age of 18 from the same 13 countries

* North America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific (Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, the UK, and the US)