GlobeScan and SustainAbility have tracked expert opinions on sustainable development leadership for more than 20 years.
Key findings in the 2016 report are:
- Non-state actors continue the trend of significantly outperforming all other organizationson their sustainable development (SD) leadership record. The contribution of NGOs since the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio is viewed positively by 57% of polled experts. Social entrepreneurs, academic institutions and citizen-led mass social change movements are also evaluated positively by respondents. Meanwhile, national governments rank at the bottom of the list, rated positively by only 6% of respondents.
- Sustainability experts believe that national governments and the private sector equally share the responsibility for advancing SD over the next two decades, with 34% of experts rating each as vital to progress. Multi-sectoral partnerships are also seen as playing a critical role. Expectations for governments to lead have gradually decreased in recent years, while those for the private sector have been rising.
- Unilever continues to be regarded as the global corporate leader on sustainability. It has further increased its leadership margin and was named as a leader by 43% of polled experts. Patagonia, Interface, IKEA and Tesla are also among the top-rated leaders.
- Regional leadership ratings are dominated by consumer-facing companies, with Unilever leading in Europe, Patagonia in North America, Woolworths in Africa and Natura in Latin America. In Asia, the Tata group of companies occupies the top position on the list.
- Aligning sustainability strategy with internal culture and values and integrating purpose via a common brand promise are perceived as two key drivers of corporate leadership. In the case of Unilever, vocal support of sustainability by senior leadership is the single most important factor accounting for its outsized reputation.
- 44% of respondents suggest that the most effective way for companies to make a positive contribution towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is through pursuing partnerships and developing products and services. Experts also recommend that the private sector should apply the SDGs as a lens in goal-setting and risk analysis processes.
- WWF and Greenpeace continue to be seen as NGO leaders on sustainable development, with 30% and 20% of expert votes respectively. Meanwhile, Sweden (27%) and Germany (25%) are most frequently named as government leaders.
- Experts are critical of industry efforts to transition to sustainable development, with the record of all sectors viewed primarily negatively. The forest products sector, biotechnology and ICT companies are considered to be managing the transition the best, while the oil & gas and mining industries are viewed negatively by more than 75% of experts.