Companies continue to rank low among global institutions when it comes to sustainability leadership, though a few companies — mostly the usual suspects — continue to rise above the others, according to an annual survey being released this week. If that sounds like damning with faint praise, it is. According to the 2013 Sustainability Leaders survey (download - PDF), produced jointly byGlobeScan and SustainAbility, the private sector outperforms only the world’s national governments when it comes to effectively addressing sustainability challenges. That is to say, their second to last.
There is broad consistency in leadership opinions across the world. The primary distinction is relative opinions of corporate and NGO leadership. Corporate leaders rank higher than NGOs in Europe and Oceania, but far lower in North America, Latin America/ Caribbean and Africa/Middle East. Over half of experts are unable to name a sustainability leader from the developing world. Brazil’s Natura and India’s Tata were the only companies that garnered more than 1 percent of mentions from experts in Europe and North America.
So, if companies aren’t seen as leaders, who is?
Leaders in the scientific community, NGO leaders, leaders of multinational organizations — but, most of all, “social entrepreneurs,” who are now perceived as the sector advancing the sustainability agenda most. That seemed curious. “I think people reflexively think that’s a good institutional form, even though people can’t point to specific social entrepreneurs that are making a difference,” Guenther explained. “I think what they respond to is the label.”
Note to big companies: Embrace the mantle of social entrepreneurship and you just might win some hearts and minds.
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