ESG a key priority for more than half of global leaders

by Katelyn Adams
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More than half of global company leaders are looking to redefine environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals and become more purpose led.

This is just one of the findings revealed in a recent survey of business leaders by HLB International. The HLB Survey of Business Leaders 2023 collected 575 survey responses from business leaders across 60 countries and a range of industry backgrounds between September and November last year.

Fifteen percent of respondents said their businesses already identified as purpose-led businesses and a further 37 percent said they attempted to meet wider stakeholder expectations in their ESG goals.

This reflects the increasing need for business leaders to recognise that investors, customers and employees are demanding strong ESG principles.

However, there remains work to be done, as the survey shows. Forty percent of respondents indicated they only complete the ESG actions required by regulators, rather than treat the wider themes of sustainability as an opportunity for innovation. A further eight per cent do not have any established ESG goals at all.

While ESG commitments can be overlooked amid ongoing market turmoil, it is important that companies remember that sustainability and profitability aren’t mutually exclusive.

Wider commitments to ESG practices, social welfare, and good governance can actually help leaders weather disruption and emerge stronger from it with a more sustainable and profitable business model.

Many investors for example are finding companies that have strong ESG practices in place more attractive. A company that can clearly communicate its ESG objectives demonstrates a commitment to acting as a good corporate citizen.

The survey also highlighted the challenging period ahead which has been deemed the ‘permacrisis’, defined as an extended period of instability and insecurity and identifies eight major risks facing global businesses.

Over half of respondents now feel acutely concerned about the impacts of inflation (82 percent), economic uncertainty (79 percent), geopolitical risks (74 percent), rising resource costs (71 percent), rising interest rates (64 percent), access to talent (61 percent), exchange rate volatility (60 percent), and cybersecurity issues (60 percent). Climate risks and social instability were also of concern, at 58 percent and 49 percent respectively.

In terms of the technologies that will be of most importance to business over the next five years, artificial intelligence was the highest ranked at 50 percent, followed by cloud computing at 47 percent, and renewable energy technologies at 40 percent.

Katelyn Adams

Katelyn Adams is a corporate advisory partner at HLB Mann Judd Adelaide.

Read about how Australia was named the most sustainable real estate in the world last year, according to global ESG benchmark GRESB.

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