Study highlights hurdles to corporate sustainability progress


Half of all businesses say that having too much data to make sense of, or not having the right data, is the biggest single barrier to sustainability.

That’s according to a new study from Designit that reveals more than half (54 per cent) of all businesses have difficulty in integrating sustainability innovation into products – and on average they spend only four per cent of their revenue on sustainability.

And although the majority of companies (63 per cent) state that rising costs are the biggest external barrier to sustainability, unclear government guidelines are also rated as one of the most challenging roadblocks (47 per cent), alongside geopolitical instability (43 per cent), and technological constraints (42 per cent).

The study’s far-reaching findings also reveal that all companies leading in sustainability consider themselves to be purpose-led, and they are more likely to be headquartered in Europe. Purpose-driven leaders’ desire to do good extends far beyond their own organisation – they proactively develop industry standardised practices and approaches to tackling carbon emissions. Purpose-driven leaders are also committed to sustainability: 8 in 10 will even go as far as collaborating with other companies in their industry to solve the world’s most pressing sustainability problems.

Designit hopes that highlighting the behaviours of leaders against laggards can lessen the gap between the two and allow less advanced businesses to design effective sustainable transitions that move beyond the superficial. This entails applying strategic design across the entirety of a business, from organisational structure to product development.

Miguel Sabel Pereira, Designit’s European head of sustainability, said: “Our research shows how hard it can be for many businesses to turn ambition into progress on sustainability. Yet crucially, it also shows what the most advanced businesses are doing. It showcases what effective corporate behaviours look like in a way that those trailing behind can adopt.

“What really sets the most advanced businesses apart is an innovative approach to sustainability. They are intent on consistently and holistically applying strategic design innovation until it forms part of the organisation’s DNA and extends into its wider value chain.

“This has allowed them to re-imagine their value to society and the environment, places sustainability at the core of their proposition, and empowers people’s potential in driving sustainable value. It’s a template others can and should adopt if we’re to see wholesale change across the world of business.”

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