Research: Biggest sustainability spenders come from high-tech, consumer goods and energy

Energy efficiency and carbon management represent the biggest area of spending focus.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

Three main industries -- high-tech, consumer products and utilities/energy -- will account for almost 75 percent of the roughly $27.6 billion in spending related to corporate sustainability initiatives at U.S. companies, according to a new report published by British research firm Verdantix.

The laggard industries in the Verdantix report include financial services, automotive and construction, the research reveals.

The report, called "U.S. Sustainability Spending 2009-2014," goes on to suggest that sustainability-related spending could reach $60 billion in the United States by 2014. The research, based on the Verdantix Critical Moments model, is based on analysis of companies with revenue of at least $1 billion. Verdantix defined sustainability spending as money spent on 29 different initiatives that it has identified as linchpins of sustainability strategy. I won't list all 29 of those here, but the list covers everything from energy efficiency investments to carbon management software to cleantech innovation investments to industrial emission reductions programs.

The report's author, Vanessa O'Connell, has this observation:

"Despite the positive growth rates, this is a small market compared to the overall size of the U.S. economy. Big variations in sustainability spend, program maturity and organizational design will make sales and marketing a challenge in the sustainability market over the next two years. From 2013, we expect to see more consistency in sustainable business strategies

Here are estimates for some of the bigger areas of corporate sustainability spending this year:

  • $4.3 billion will go toward building energy efficiency projects and management systems, with the biggest investments coming from retailers
  • $2.2 billion is going toward sustainable buildings that hope to carry a Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED) certification
  • $1.1 billion is earmarked for data center energy efficiency, about 5 percent more than what was spent in 2009
  • $1.3 billion is going toward carbon data collection and management, including everything from consulting to deployment of smart meters
  • Approximately $800 million is being invested in sustainable supply chain
  • $768 million is being spent on water management initiatives
  • About $560 million is being spent on reducing the energy consumption of network telecommunications technology
  • And, last but not least, corporate sustainability marketing is expected to cost about $637 million by the end of the year

The five biggest growth potential areas for sustainability spending between now and 2014 will be the following, according to the Verdantix research:

  1. Electric vehicles and infrastructure
  2. Smart grid
  3. Cleantech research and development
  4. Carbon data collection and management
  5. Recruiting and training

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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