An overwhelming majority of executives at top companies say they are using innovative technologies to drive profitability and environmental performance, according to a new survey released today by Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).
More than 70 percent of executives surveyed said their business and environmental goals are more closely aligned than they were just five years ago, primarily due to advances in technology.
The survey, “Business and the Fourth Wave of Environmentalism,” includes responses from more than 500 executives at companies ranging from $500 million to more than $5 billion in revenues. It examines how top executives view and use seven emerging technologies: blockchain, sensors, data analytics, mobile ubiquity, dematerialization, automation, and sharing technologies.
“Innovation and technology are accelerating sustainability efforts from the factory floor to the C-suite,” said Tom Murray, vice president of EDF+Business. “Executives are recognizing how emerging technologies that benefit the bottom line can also improve environmental performance.”
EDF worked with opinion research firm KRC Research to conduct the survey of business executives across five industries—retail, manufacturing, energy, technology, and finance. Respondents included VP, SVP and C-suite levels and spanned functional areas, including marketing, finance, operations, strategy/executive, and IT.
Major findings include:
- 70 percent of executives say their company is already actively investing in technologies that help solve environmental problems.
- 78 percent believe that new technologies will compel businesses to improve their environmental impact on their own, regardless of pressure from regulators, consumers or investors.
- 75 percent of top companies consider the environmental impact of a technology when deciding to implement it.
- 80 percent of business leaders believe consumers will start holding businesses more accountable for environmental impact because of the ubiquity of these technologies.
“The same innovations that are changing our lives and revolutionizing virtually every sector of the economy can be harnessed to scale solutions to our most urgent environmental challenges,” added Murray. “Fourth Wave innovations can supercharge sustainability efforts by surfacing valuable data that was previously invisible, improving resiliency across global supply chains, and enabling powerful collaborations between industry, advocacy groups and communities.”
Of the seven technologies analyzed:
- Blockchain and dematerialization remain foreign to about 35 percent of business leaders, although they are believed to have the greatest growth potential.
- Data analytics is the most implemented innovation and also believed to have the biggest potential impact on an organization’s bottom line, environmental footprint and brand reputation.
- Data analytics and measurement technology are seen as having as much potential to improve the environment as both cap-and-trade systems and major environmental laws of the 1970s.
“Despite an unpredictable policy landscape, environmental leadership and innovation is alive and well in corporate America,” concluded Murray.
What business leaders have to say about the survey findings:
“At Allbirds, our mission is to make better things in better ways and sustainability has been a core principle since day one. Technologies that improve our data quality and traceability of our supply chain are vital to this mission as they ensure that the benefits of more sustainable choices in materials and operations can be realized by our customers.”
- Jad Finck, VP of Innovation and Sustainability, Allbirds, Inc.
“Good data is the lifeblood of good decision-making. This is especially important for high-stakes, long-term business and environmental issues.”
- Curtis Ravenel, Global Head of Sustainable Business & Finance, Bloomberg
CAMPBELL SOUP COMPANY
“I’m constantly thinking about where tech is going not in just two years but in five or 10 years – and what it will mean for the company. Already, we’re seeing that some of the technology tools and innovations in the agriculture space are unlocking opportunities for our business and for reducing our environmental footprint.”
- Dave Stangis, Vice President of Corporate Responsibility and Chief Sustainability Officer at Campbell
“There’s no question that our focus on environmental innovation and stewardship, along with our technological leadership, has been a catalyst for company growth and profitability, and has led to an increase in the number of companies that want to partner with us.”
- Tom Linebarger, Chairman and CEO of Cummins, Inc.
“We are excited that Google technologies are playing a role in collecting, analyzing, and communicating environmental information to reduce methane leaks under city streets in Pittsburgh and beyond. Sharing the data can make a meaningful difference in people’s lives, and help utility operators prioritize costly pipeline repair and replacement efforts.”
- Karin Tuxen-Bettman, Program Manager for Google Earth Outreach
“At IKEA, we’re doing everything we can to embrace technology – innovation is a big opportunity for the business and the planet. Technology also stimulates corporate creativity, helps attract top talent and keeps us on the cutting-edge.”
- Stefan Karlsson, Sustainability Compliance Manager, IKEA
“Technology innovation is making sustainability issues part of day to day business operations. At Mahindra, every extra dollar we can spare for new technologies that make us more energy efficient is well invested, as it helps both the business and the environment.”
- Anirban Ghosh, Chief Sustainability Officer, Mahindra Group
“Sustainable business is better business, and the good news is that the technology solutions needed to achieve sustainable outcomes are available today, with more on the way. When companies work to integrate sustainability into business, they ensure that they are fit for not only today’s business environment, but into the future as well.”
- Bruno Sarda, VP of Sustainability, NRG Energy
“Doing what’s right for the environment is doing what’s right for business. Most of the environmental impact and the opportunity is in the supply chain. The Fourth Wave of environmental innovation is all about unleashing people and solutions at scale and we need technology to do that.”
- Kathleen McLaughlin, Chief Sustainability Officer at Walmart
“Technology innovations are accelerating corporate sustainability, and bringing unprecedented opportunities for businesses to increase profits and reduce environmental impacts.”
- Matt Eggers, Vice President of Yardi Energy
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