labels: british telecom, marketing - general
Organisations failing to benefit from sustainability programmes: BT- EIU survey news
31 October 2007

A major international study by the Economist Intelligence Unit, sponsored by BT, has revealed that organisations are failing to realise business benefits from sustainability programmes. While almost half (46 per cent) said that sustainability programmes helped improve brand value, just one in five (20 per cent) felt they improved profitability.

Based on a survey of 750 global executives on attitudes to sustainability and how these are reflected (or not) in corporate culture and workforce, the survey covers a range of questions, from how people define sustainability to what they''re doing about it and how they prioritise it.

There were 10 in-depth interviews conducted as part of this exercise. The survey helps in revealing the following:
" The scope of the confusion over what sustainability really means
" A benchmark on what companies are actually doing in this area, and how seriously they''re taking their commitment
" A self assessment of how well companies believe they''re doing
" Conflicts between what companies'' market positioning on sustainability, and the reality of their business practices
" A disconnect between the stated importance of sustainability and the staff numbers and levels dedicated to it
" A disconnect between the stated importance of sustainability and the personal commitment / involvement of the survey respondents
" A year-on-year comparison of whether companies are taking sustainability more seriously when choosing partners
The research indicates that, whilst sustainability may be firmly on the boardroom agenda as organisations compete for a ''responsible'' reputation, executives have yet to find a way to harness it as a commercial force. One third (33 per cent) of respondents admitted that their company only makes sustainability efforts in markets where it is perceived to have an impact on customers'' perceptions of the firm, and a similar proportion (31 per cent) admitted that their company''s sustainability efforts mostly centre on communication, rather than actual change.

James Watson, senior editor at the Economist Intelligence Unit, said: "Many companies are moving away from mere rhetoric towards real business initiatives. However, a gap remains between what companies claim they are achieving in terms of managing their social and environmental impacts and the extent to which their executives feel involved in these activities. Companies need to devise strategies that do more to engage staff in sustainability through their day-to-day activities."

Francois Barrault, CEO, BT Global Services, said: "The link between sustainability and commercial success is, without doubt, becoming clearer all the time. Our own sustainability performance is helping us win deals, create new offerings and build enthusiasm amongst our workforce."

The research went on to identify that sustainability programmes were missing out on board-level leadership. In two out of five organisations (40 per cent), the person responsible for sustainability issues did not report directly to the board, while 23 per cent of organisations had no person responsible for such matters.

Barrault said, "The key to helping sustainability programmes benefit society, the environment and profitability is leadership. All organisations, BT included, are at the start of this journey, but now is the time for CEOs and CFOs to lead from the front. Our own experience is that sustainability can be a win-win for all concerned - local communities, emerging economies, the environment and also the bottom line."

The full report, Action or Aspiration? Sustainability in the Workplace, can be downloaded from Other findings include:
" ''Commitment to sustainable practices'' was rated the least important consideration when deciding to partner or collaborate with a third party company
" ''The company''s reputation for sustainable practices'' was also rated the least important factor by respondents when considering a role at a new company
" Sustainability practices are most firmly embedded in companies'' investor/public relations activity (32 per cent) and HR functions (29 per cent)
" Nearly one quarter of respondents (24 per cent) agree that their organisation''s sustainability efforts are primarily driven by staff at the grassroots rather than senior management
" More than one third of respondents (37 per cent) have been given specific sustainability goals to achieve as part of their responsibilities
" More than one third (34 per cent) said that their company''s commitment to sustainable practices is not embedded in downstream suppliers and their supply chains.

BT and sustainability
" BT''s newly formed sustainability practice recently launched the BT carbon impact assessment, which enables organisations to accurately calculate the amount of CO2 emissions produced as a result of the use of networked IT services. It also provides solutions to help customers reduce their energy consumption and carbon footprint.
" BT has reduced its UK carbon emissions by 60 per cent since 1996 and aims to reduce it by 80 per cent (against a 1996 baseline) by 2016
" BT has one of the largest green energy contracts in the world. Partnering with npower and British Gas, BT will be saving the equivalent amount of carbon that is generated by 300,000 households in the UK.
" More than 13,000 BT employees work from home with 64,000 more equipped to work flexibly.
" BT is working with UNICEF to improve access to education and ICT technology in disadvantaged communities in South Africa, Brazil and China.
" BT is developing wind farms aimed at generating up to 25 per cent of its existing UK electricity requirements by 2016. The scheme represents the UK''s biggest corporate wind power project outside of the energy sector.

(See: Action or Aspiration? Sustainability in the workplace)

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Organisations failing to benefit from sustainability programmes: BT- EIU survey