Google poll: Companies implementing fewer sustainability programs, but interest is strong

Google poll: Companies implementing fewer sustainability programs, but interest is strong

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Fewer corporate sustainability programs are moving into the implementation stage than a year ago but interest among executives continues to be strong, according to a new Google LLC survey.

The 2023 Google Cloud Sustainability Survey polled 1,476 senior executives in 16 countries. The study, which the search giant published today, was carried out on its cloud business’ behalf by market research firm The Harris Poll.

Google Cloud found that 9 in 10 companies have publicly announced sustainability commitments. However, only 58% are implementing programs to advance those commitments. Overall, the number of environmental initiatives moving into the implementation phase fell 8% from 2022.

The decline comes as organizations adjust their investments to address macroeconomic headwinds. Last year, participants in Google Cloud’s survey named ESG, or environmental, social and governance, initiatives as their organizations’ top priority. This year, ESG initiatives fell from the number one spot to third place on corporate agendas.

According to Google, 78% of the respondents said that they have to achieve sustainability goals with less funding than before. Nearly half, 45%, added that the current economic climate is setting back climate action programs. Another 42% pointed to the energy crisis in Europe as a factor that negatively impacted their companies’ decarbonization efforts.

But though fewer resources may be available for sustainability initiatives than a year ago, executive interest remains strong. “Participation in programs remains mostly unchanged from 2022,” Justin Keeble, the managing director for global sustainability at Google Cloud, wrote in a blog post. “Interest in organizational sustainability also remains strong, with 84% of respondents saying they care more about sustainability than before.”

The survey found that 96% of companies have at least one program in place to advance their climate action initiatives. Some 72% of the executives polled for the survey agreed with the statement “that they want to advance sustainability efforts, but no one knows how to actually do so.”

Google Cloud asked executives about the obstacles holding back their companies’ environmental programs. Most of the respondents, 84%, pointed to the need for a better organizational structure. They stated that their companies’ sustainability efforts would be more effective if they had a “better structure with clear accountability.”

Elaborating, 70% expressed the view that appointing a dedicated executive to lead climate action programs would be the best way to advance sustainability goals. Another 83% highlighted the need for more agile team structures. 

The need for better technology was also a major theme in the survey. According to Google, many of the respondents identified a lack of tools as one of the main barriers to advancing corporate sustainability programs. Additionally, most respondents expressed interest in rolling out systems that would make it possible to more effectively track environmental efforts. 

“Executives are eager for better systems to track their progress, with 87% of respondents looking to incorporate better measurement into their organizations to help make more accurate targets,” Keeble wrote. “Measurement is critical. But coupling accurate measurement tools with more ambitious targets is where we believe there is untapped opportunity.”

Image: Google Cloud

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