Corporate America Continues Emphasis on Sustainability

The results of a new survey this year shows that, when it comes to investing in sustainable business behaviors and programs, more than half of corporate marketers and communicators believe their organizations will increase involvement in environmental sustainability initiatives.

The survey was conducted by the American Marketing Association and public relations firm Fleishman-Hillard, St. Louis.

A group of 270 marketing and communications professionals was surveyed online in January and February.

 “It is important that companies align their sustainability and business objectives internally, with engagement from management and employees, before communicating their goals externally,” said Aili Jokela, co-chair of FH Sustainability, in a statement. “Taking careful steps in building a communications program that correlates to a strategic plan and measurable operation improvements is extremely important for authenticity and credibility. Then, it’s time to communicate.”

Key findings show 58 percent of marketing and communication leaders believe their companies will place more emphasis on developing corporate sustainability opportunities in the months ahead, despite the economic constraints many in the business world are facing. More than half of those surveyed believe that sustainability is an essential element of their company’s current reputation. According to 63 percent of respondents, new Presidential administration policies will further accelerate the adoption of corporate sustainability programs.

How companies choose to market sustainable initiatives differs, since about 43 percent of those surveyed expect their companies to increase marketing of their sustainability programs, meaning more than half do not plan any communications increases.

Employees and customers (82 percent and 74 percent, respectively) are more likely to be the targets of communications about sustainability than are investors and analysts (52 percent).

In an interesting revelation, 53 percent of respondents define sustainability as the need to balance financial, human and natural resources for the long-term benefit of business and communities. Only 3 percent define sustainability in terms of focusing on renewable energy resources, and 10 percent define it as driving inefficiency out of the supply chain. Even the most obvious sustainability programs — recycling and electric energy efficiency — are extensively embraced by only a minority of businesses (36 percent and 20 percent, respectively).