How important are your sustainability metrics to company execs?

by Brianna Crandall — January 8, 2019 — Sustainability metrics related to environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks are now regularly evaluated and integrated into the business plans of leadership companies across industries, according to a new report by the National Association for Environmental Management (NAEM). Many of these relate to building performance issues for which facilities managers (FMs) hold responsibility.

Among those surveyed by the association, more than 80 percent of responding companies said the Board of Directors directly reviews metrics related to the company’s performance in such areas as: greenhouse gas emissions, employee safety and water use.

Moreover, the report found that shareholder resolutions and routine inquiries are driving more companies to include ESG data in their 10K filings (42%) and to publish integrated reports, which present sustainability data within the context of business performance (49%).

Sustainability book cover, with a colorful city skyline and symbols

2018 Planning for a Sustainable Future: Ideas that Will Shape EHS and Sustainability Management in the Year to Come report. Publication image courtesy NAEM

“The regulatory actions that may have once driven business to change have been firmly supplanted by an emerging cultural expectation that transparency, environmental stewardship and corporate responsibility are the costs of doing business today,” the report states.

Every two years, NAEM conducts a benchmark of the ideas and practices that will shape the future of sustainability management. According to the group, this insider’s look at how corporate leaders are evolving their programs has accurately documented a number of noteworthy shifts, including: the introduction of science-based targets for greenhouse gas emissions (65%), corporate support for public policies to address climate change (66%), and the inclusion of economic equality into sustainability agenda.

The 2018 Planning for a Sustainable Future report synthesized perspectives from dozens of interviews as well as survey results from among 79 NAEM members.

The sense of urgency captured by the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was likewise reflected in NAEM’s findings, which affirmed the business community’s commitment to finding solutions via: the use of on-site renewable energy (63%), formal zero-waste programs (51%), integrating sustainability into new product design (81%), and introducing tangible steps to create a circular economy (47%).

NAEM Executive Director Carol Singer Neuvelt said the report demonstrates the importance of the EHS&S professionals to long-term business success. According to Neuvelt:

Our members are a linchpin for those organizations who are confronting the business risks associated with environmental degradation. The good news is that investors, customers, employees and senior leaders are now aligning themselves toward action.

Rich Goode, executive director of Climate Change and Sustainability Services for EY, which sponsored the research, said the report captured the complex business environment that EHS&S professionals now navigate. Goode pointed out:

The EHS&S profession is rapidly changing, and practitioners face an increasingly complex regulatory environment along with new stakeholder demands. There is a clear need to show business value that transcends simple compliance.

To download the full results of the 2018 Planning for a Sustainable Future: Ideas that Will Shape EHS and Sustainability Management in the Year to Come report, visit the NAEM website. NAEM notes the report is offered free of charge thanks to the generous support of sponsor EY.