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View From the Top: How Corporate Boards Engage on Sustainability Performance

This report includes specific, actionable recommendations that can help corporate boards oversee the production of tangible environmental and social impacts for their companies.

ViewFromTheTopReportCoverCorporate boards are responsible for overseeing the interests of shareholders in  the long term and have a critical role to play in championing sustainability across the enterprise. Over the years, Wall Street research, academic papers, corporate reports and trends from major investors have all underscored the same message: Companies that adopt sustainable practices deliver superior financial results and can face the future with more resilience.

Based on interviews conducted with dozens of corporate directors, senior corporate leaders and governance experts, this Ceres report, View from the top: How Corporate Boards Engage on Sustainability Performance identifies key strategies for effective board engagement that can produce tangible environmental and social impacts.

Specifically, the report recommends two inter-related approaches for weaving sustainability more deeply across board functions:

1) Integrating sustainability into board governance systems, and

2) Integrating sustainability into board actions.

By combining robust systems and meaningful actions, boards will have a far better chance of encouraging substantive performance improvements.


Learn more about corporate governance and board level engagement on sustainability by downloading the report.


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Or, preview the Executive Summary.

This report builds on The Ceres Roadmap for Sustainability which lays out 20 expectations for corporate sustainability systems and performance. The Ceres Roadmap calls on corporate boards to “provide oversight and accountability for corporate sustainability strategy and performance.”

Since 2010, Ceres has assessed large U.S. companies on their uptake of The Ceres Roadmap expectations. These assessments reveal that while there has been a measurable uptick in director engagement on sustainability issues, it is still largely the exception rather than the rule among most companies. Additionally, except in the case of a few leading companies, it is often unclear whether board sustainability oversight is achieving meaningful sustainability performance impacts.