KPMG: More businesses have formal sustainability programs than don't

New study from KPMG shows reporting metrics remain the biggest challenge to progress in sustainable business practices.

For those of you who have managers that prefer to be in the majority and who have been resisting the call of corporate social responsibility and sustainability, you have some new data on your side. A new report from KPMG International, "Corporate Sustainability: A progress report," shows that only 14 percent of U.S. companies are ignoring it. Fully 55 percent of the U.S. executives who responded to KPMG said they worked for companies with a program in place, another 12 percent are with businesses that are working on a strategy, and 19 percent are just beginning to develop a plan.

U.S. companies are still a bit behind their European peers in this regard, the data shows: More than 62 percent of European executives report that the companies they work for have a formal sustainability program.

The three biggest motivators for sustainability in the United States and abroad have been brand considerations (37 percent) and regulatory or legal compliance (35 percent), and reducing costs (34 percent), the research shows. The biggest roadblock: How to collect reasonable sustainability metrics, analyze and report this data.

Said John Hickox, lead on KPMG's Climate Change & Sustainability practice in the Americas:

"Leading companies that have embedded sustainability programming and reporting into their processes and culture are finding ways to leverage their investment to cut costs, and meet regulatory and customer expectations. It is all about believing in the transformative benefits that thinking differently can bring to a company its culture and its bottom-line results."

Another tough thing for sustainability managers to overcome internally, the data shows, is a focus on short-term financial results.

Personally speaking, I love that a majority of companies apparently are thinking about this. I don't like the fact that regulatory concerns remain such a big motivator however. I worry that our environmental policy loses its bits that some businesses will back off their interest in sustainability, even though it has such clear long-term benefits.

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