Companies Are Increasingly Competing on Sustainability Goals but Many Are Unprepared

A Quarter of Companies Surveyed Have “Aspirational” Goals, Lack Clear Plan to Achieve Them

New York City (June 21, 2011) – A growing number of companies are using public announcements of sustainability goals as a means of signaling their commitment to become sustainability leaders, and to compete for superior positioning versus their rivals. But many companies are unprepared. “Despite the best of intentions, even some excellent companies are challenged to execute on the sustainability goals they announce,” said David Schatsky, principal at Green Research and author of a new study about how corporations set and manage sustainability goals.

According to the report, “Setting and Managing Sustainability Goals: Trends and Best Practices for Sustainability Executives,” management practices surrounding sustainability goals vary widely among companies. While most companies have effective procedures for managing financial and other operational goals, processes for managing sustainability goals are still maturing. A quarter of the sustainability executives surveyed for the study say their companies have set “aspirational” sustainability goals and lack a clear plan to achieve them.

“Some companies have excellent procedures in place for defining and managing sustainability goals,” said Schatsky, “but many are still developing and run the risk of disappointing stakeholders.” The report analyzes data from a new survey of 32 senior sustainability executives at major companies in North America, Europe and Asia. Over forty percent of respondents say progress on sustainability goals is reported to senior management only semi-annually or annually. More frequent reporting offers better control and lower operational risk, but gathering environmental data is still cumbersome at many companies.

The report finds that CEO support, operating executive accountability, ties to compensation and regular progress reporting are the best practices of managing sustainability goals. It also highlights the most common sustainability goals at leading companies and the role of public versus internal sustainability goals.

The complete findings of the report are available online at To learn more about the research or the specific companies interviewed or profiled, please visit or contact David Schatsky at 646-783-8337 or

David Schatsky


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