Senior Leadership is Number One Driver of Sustainability for Businesses, Shows New Study by The Economist Intelligence Unit and Coca-Cola Enterprises

Senior Leadership is Number One Driver of Sustainability for Businesses, Shows New Study by The Economist Intelligence Unit and Coca-Cola Enterprises

Innovation, Collaboration and Technology are key to breakthroughs, but barriers remain

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013 - 3:00am

CONTENT: Press Release


Innovation, collaboration and technology are key to breakthroughs, but barriers remain, according to Economist Intelligence Unit study

  • Senior leadership engagement is the most frequently (44%) cited factor in determining the success of companies' sustainability strategy over the next three years
  • Almost one-third of businesses (32%) now work with competitors to seek out new ideas for sustainability innovation
  • Leading companies need to advocate sustainability benefits to win over the wider business community
  • Challenges still exist with perceived high costs and lack of belief in rate of returns
  • Research paper was commissioned by Coca-Cola Enterprises and developed by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU)

LONDON, October 1, 2013 /3BL Media/ – According to a recent study, senior leadership is regarded as the number one driver of sustainability within a business and nearly half of businesses (44%) believe engagement with business leaders will be the most important factor in successfully implementing a sustainability strategy over the next three years. Additionally, at the Board level, 28% have periodic meetings addressing sustainability, but only 18% of companies have directors who assess the success of sustainability initiatives.

These are the findings of Sustainability insights: learning from business leaders, a study commissioned by Coca-Cola Enterprises (NYSE/Euronext Paris: CCE), which manufactures, bottles and markets Coca-Cola products in Western Europe, and developed by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). The research, based on a survey of more than 300 European business executives [i], explores how businesses’ sustainability strategies have performed in recent years and identifies the key drivers for future success.

“Despite the challenging economic environment, companies have largely stayed with their sustainability goals. What we are seeing now is a real shift to mainstream sustainability-related initiatives in Europe. Companies are learning how to better integrate this into their businesses profitably. There is still a lot of room to improve but this is a profoundly positive change,” says Brian Gardner, senior editor at the Economist Intelligence Unit.

However, while 52% of companies have been able to maintain their sustainability agenda despite the economic downturn, less than a third (31%) include environmental metrics in their financial reporting and barely a quarter (26%) require all departments to report on their sustainability endeavors. Executives will be hard pressed to build a meaningful business case for sustainability without clear data available to them.


More Compelling Business Case for Sustainability Required

Almost half (44%) of respondents report that the biggest barrier to implementing a sustainability strategy is perceived high costs, coupled with a lack of belief in rates of return. This highlights the need to build a stronger business case for sustainability to convince the wider European business community of the value of putting sustainability at the heart of its operations.

For those companies that recognize the value of sustainability, the main benefits they cite are: improved reputation (58%), differentiation from competitors (32%), and enhanced stakeholder engagement (29%). While only one in five (21%) cite boosted profits as a key benefit of their sustainability endeavors.


Innovation, Collaboration, and Technology are Critical

Sustainability insights: learning from business leaders explored innovation, collaboration and technology as important components of the disruptive approaches needed to drive the next era of sustainable business. This is essential if organizations are to achieve the breakthroughs needed to accelerate progress towards improved sustainability.

Leading companies are increasingly turning to collaboration to maximize resources and intelligence. Nearly a third of businesses (32%) now work with competitors to seek out ideas for sustainability innovation, and a similar number (27%) work with NGOs and civil society.  Over the next three years, businesses say that partnerships will be important contributors to driving sustainability success.

More than a quarter of companies (28%) believe technological innovation will also drive the success of their sustainability strategy in the next three years. Additionally, 61% believe that technological developments contribute to sustainability-related innovations, and 41% say they’ve successfully harnessed technology to improve their environmental impact.

 “While we are proud of the progress we have made on our own sustainability journey, the next era of sustainable business will be led by more meaningful collaboration with government and society to identify the kind of innovation that will address the significant societal and environmental issues of our time,” said John F Brock, chairman and chief executive officer at Coca-Cola Enterprises.

“Business leaders need to embrace disruptive new approaches to sustainability – both within our own organizations and through our value chains. We need to advocate for this among the broader European business community to create breakthroughs in sustainable business.”


To read the full study or find out more, please visit

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Research Methodology

Sustainability insights: lessons from business leaders is a Coca-Cola Enterprises report written by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). It investigates European companies’ experiences in setting and pursuing sustainability objectives – what measures have worked well, and what have not. To shed light on this, the EIU conducted a survey of 334 executives based in Europe in August 2013. Over three-fifths (62%) of the respondents are board members or C-level executives, the rest being other senior managers. Drawn from a range of industries, half of the firms surveyed generate over US$500m in annual revenue and 25% of respondents had direct authority over their organization’s sustainability endeavors.

About CCE

Coca-Cola Enterprises, Inc. (CCE) is the leading Western European marketer, producer, and distributor of non-alcoholic ready-to-drink beverages and one of the world’s largest independent Coca-Cola bottlers. CCE is the sole licensed bottler for products of The Coca-Cola Company in Belgium, continental France, Great Britain, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden. We operate with a local focus and have 17 manufacturing sites across Europe, where we manufacture nearly 90 percent of our products in the markets in which they are consumed. Corporate responsibility and sustainability is core to our business, and we have been recognized by leading organizations in North America and Europe for our progress in water use reduction, carbon footprint reduction, and recycling initiatives. For more information about our company, please visit our website at and follow us on Twitter at @cokecce.


About Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU)

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) is the world's leading resource for economic and business research, forecasting and analysis. It provides accurate and impartial intelligence for companies, government agencies, financial institutions and academic organisations around the globe, inspiring business leaders to act with confidence since 1946. EIU products include its flagship Country Reports service, providing political and economic analysis for 195 countries, and a portfolio of subscription-based data and forecasting services. The company also undertakes bespoke research and analysis projects on individual markets and business sectors. More information is available at or follow us on

The EIU is headquartered in London, UK, with offices in more than 40 cities and a network of some 650 country experts and analysts worldwide. It operates independently as the business-to-business arm of The Economist Group, the leading source of analysis on international business and world affairs. 

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[i] Three-fifths of respondents are board members or C-level executives, the remainder were other senior managers. Half generate over US$500m in annual revenue and 25% had direct authority over their organization’s sustainability endeavours.

CATEGORY: Environment