Scary post headlines talk about extreme weather, droughts, fires, a lack of clean water, and an ever-tightening timeline to do something about it. A new Google Cloud survey by The Harris Poll found that the vast majority of executives see sustainability as a key goal for their business. It also found that most aren’t really measuring their progress over time.
That’s a problem because you can’t wish for sustainability. You need to take a course of action to achieve it internally and throughout your supply chain, and if you’re not measuring your progress (or lack thereof), it’s just a bunch of hot air.
Google Cloud surveyed 1,491 C-level executives or VPs in 16 countries to get a broad view of the sustainability issues facing businesses. The good news is that 80% of those surveyed believe their company is doing a good job around sustainability, which sounds great. But then they were asked how they were measuring their progress. That’s where the survey showed some of the most alarming responses.
“The research showed a worrying gap between how well companies think they are doing and how accurately they can measure it. Only 36% of respondents said their organizations have measurement tools in place to quantify their sustainability efforts, and only 17% use those measures to optimize for results,” Justin Keeble, CEO of Sustainability, wrote in a blog post. global sustainability of Google Cloud. post describing the results.
Executives who responded to the survey questions were surprisingly candid about the lack of measurement and what that means: 58% said there was “green hypocrisy” in their organizations, and roughly two-thirds questioned how committed their organizations really were to this kind of effort. There’s a term for this: “greenwashing,” where companies talk about sustainability but don’t follow suit.
Surprisingly, 4% of respondents reported that they have no sustainability efforts at their companies. That means 96% do, but that could be one of many options, like sustainable office policies, working with green suppliers, or running a recycling program.
There is still reason for optimism, with respondents seeing sustainability and broad ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) efforts as leading to better business outcomes, with 74% saying sustainability can drive substantial business transformation.
The question is how to bridge the gap between the desire (assuming it is genuine) and the measurement problem. Google sees it as a technological problem.
“Technological innovation is what top utility executives believe will affect the sustainable growth of their organization and the sustainability of the planet in general, with 91% of respondents agreeing that ‘technology makes it possible for our organization be more sustainable. the company wrote in the full report.
Unsurprisingly, the company is also announcing a carbon measurement tool called Carbon Footprint as a way for Google Cloud users to measure the progress of their sustainability efforts. Other companies like Salesforce also offer tools to measure sustainability progress; in this case, it is called Sustainability Cloud. It provides a way to manage the process of achieving a goal of net-zero energy use over time. It’s worth noting that Google has a partnership with Salesforce around this product.
Earlier this year, IBM bought Envizi, a tool for measuring environmental impact in the supply chain. Meanwhile, startups like ESGgo, Fresh, and Tanso are working to create ways to bring some measurement discipline to the problem.
While it’s all very well that respondents recognize the need for sustainability and see positive business results from sustainability efforts, how do you have a planet on which to continue to operate such a business? — it is imperative to follow the data to see how well those goals are being met.