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Ceres Announces "Sustainable Prosperity" Survey Results

Survey of Thought-Leaders at Ceres Conference Highlights Climate Change, Greenhouse Gas Reductions and Energy Efficiency as Top Corporate Challenges

Investors, environmentalists and business leaders are cautiously optimistic that sustainability conditions in North America and developing countries will improve in the next two decades, according to the Ceres “Advancing Sustainable Prosperity” survey conducted last week at the Ceres annual conference in Boston. Attendees at the two-day conference were queried on a range of topics pertaining to sustainability – the issues, challenges and opportunities for achieving sustainable prosperity in global economy.
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Apr 30, 2007

BOSTON – Investors, environmentalists and business leaders are cautiously optimistic that sustainability conditions in North America and developing countries will improve in the next two decades, according to the Ceres “Advancing Sustainable Prosperity” survey conducted last week at the Ceres annual conference in Boston.  Attendees at the two-day conference were queried on a range of topics pertaining to sustainability – the issues, challenges and opportunities for achieving sustainable prosperity in global economy.

Nearly 80 percent of the nearly 300 respondents cited climate change as the biggest global sustainability challenge today, while an overwhelming majority – 90 percent – of those surveyed said greenhouse gas emission reductions and improved energy efficiency are the most important sustainability issue that corporations need to address in 2007.  Two-thirds of the respondents – 67 percent – cited renewable energy technology as the technology with the biggest opportunity for achieving sustainable prosperity.

“Achieving sustainable prosperity will require integrating environmental and social challenges into corporate strategies and capital markets so that the global economy and the global community can flourish hand in hand,” said Ceres president Mindy S. Lubber. “This survey of Ceres conference attendees provides a snapshot of the top sustainability issues and trends in 2007. Not surprisingly, respondents identify greenhouse gas emissions and energy efficiency as top priorities for corporations to address, and recognize renewable energy technology as an enormous growth opportunity."

Respondents strongly feel that the responsibility for implementing sustainable business practices within companies lies at the top. Forty-six percent of respondents said direct engagement with corporate CEOs and board members is ”the single, most effective method” for investors to spur sustainable business practices. Asking companies to improve disclosure on sustainability issues was a distant second at 15 percent. Filing shareholder resolutions received only 10 percent support.

Respondents were cautiously optimistic that government and business action will improve environmental and social conditions. According to the survey, 37 percent of respondents said that sustainable prosperity is “best achieved” through government policy & action, followed by corporate action at 32 percent and 20 percent consumer/personal action.

A very positive sign lies in the prospects for the future. Three-quarters of the respondents – 78 percent – believe that sustainability conditions in North America will “significantly improve” or “slightly improve” by 2025. Respondents were less optimistic about emerging/developing countries, with 55

percent saying sustainability conditions would improve, while 31 percent said they would “significantly” or “slightly” worsen by 2025.

Ceres is the world’s largest network of investors, environmentalists and companies united for sustainable prosperity. The 2007 conference, “Advancing Sustainable Prosperity,” attracted a record 650 attendees and addressed ways to unite both investor and environmental perspectives so that business strategies can be aligned with sustainable solutions.

Complete results of the 2007 Ceres “Improving Sustainability Prosperity” Survey are below. For more information on Ceres, visit http://www.ceres.org.

The following are the complete results of the 2007 Ceres “Improving Sustainable Prosperity” Survey:

1. What are the three most important sustainability issues that corporations need to address in 2007:

Reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and increase energy efficiency:        92 % 
Implement sustainability in supply chain strategies:                                  56 % 
Integrate sustainability into product material design:                                50 % 
Investment in new technologies and products to reduce emissions:             47 % 
Improve human rights/labor practices:                                                   32 % 
Other:                                                                                               9 % 
Don’t know/Declined:                                                                            0 %

2. Sustainable prosperity is best attained through (select most important):

Government policies & actions:      37 % 
Corporate actions:                      32% 
Consumer/personal actions:          20% 
Other:                                      10% 
Don’t know/Declined:                    1% 
Philanthrop:                                 0%

3. Rank the following challenges facing sustainability today (1-not important; 5-extremely important)

Climate change:                             4.6 avg. score 
Depletion of natural resources:         4.3 avg. score 
Water quality/quantity:                   4.2 avg. score 
Poverty:                                       4.0 avg. score 
Over population:                            3.7 avg. score 
War/security:                                3.7 avg. score 
Toxics:                                         3.6 avg. score 
Food quality/quantity:                     3.5 avg. score

4. Many experts believe sustainability is a key part of business strategy. What are three areas where sustainability can have the biggest impact on business?

Improve risk management:                                 64 % 
Improve operational efficiency/cost savings:         63 % 
Building long-term shareholder value:                   62 % 
Differentiate products and services:                    36 % 
Improve brand reputation:                                 33 % 
Improve access/retention of skilled employees:      27 % 
Other:                                                             4 % 
Don’t know/Declined:                                          2 %

5. Do corporate sustainability reports influence your opinion or actions on the following (select one or more)

Reputation of company:               73 % 
Wanting to invest in a company:   66 % 
Wanting to work for a company:    57 % 
Don’t know/Declined:                     8 % 
Other:                                        5 %

6. Do you agree or  disagree with the following statement: “Collaboration, such as partnerships between NGOs, companies and investors, is important for progress on sustainability issues.”

Strongly agree:         79 % 
Somewhat agree:      20 % 
Somewhat disagree:    1 % 
Strongly disagree:       0 % 
Strongly disagree:       0 %

7. What is the single, most effective method for investors to spur sustainable business practices?

Direct engagement with corporate CEOs and board members: 46%
Asking companies to improve disclosure on sustainability issues: 15%
Encourage government to require businesses to improve sustainability practices and disclosure: 14%
Filing shareholder resolutions: 10%
Implement sustainability in their own organizations: 6%
Other: 4%
Don’t know/Declined: 4%

8. What technology poses the biggest opportunity for sustainable prosperity?

Renewable energy technology:        67 % 
Other:                                          8 % 
Information technology:                   7 % 
Don’t know/Declined:                       7 % 
Water purification technology:           6 % 
Nanotechnology:                             3 % 
Biotechnology:                                2 %

9. By 2025, sustainability conditions in North America will have:

Improved significantly:    67 % 
Improved slightly:            8 % 
Worsened significantly:     7 % 
Worsened slightly:           7 % 
Stayed the same:            6 % 
Don't know/Declined:        3 %

10. By 2025, sustainability in emerging/developing countries will have:

Improved significantly:       20 % 
Improved slightly:             35 % 
Worsened significantly:      18 % 
Worsened slightly:            13 % 
Stayed the same:             11 % 
Don't know/Declined:          3 %

Total number of respondents: 281

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