Not so sustainable, this attitude to sustainability?


You'd have thought everyone was onto it by now, sustainability.  It has been a buzzword for such a long time it is hard to remember the times before it caught on.

Sustainability reporting has been highly publicised for so long that we all kind of assume that all companies do it.  Well, it turns out that assumption is misguided:

Only 128 of the 4,609 largest companies listed worldwide on various stock exchanges discloses information on all seven basic 'first-generation' sustainability metrics.

A little bit of analysis also reveals some other popular-myth-busting insights:

  • Think Chinese companies don't care? - think again, as the Hong Kong, Shanghai and Shenzen stock exchanges all come higher than either the NYSE or NASDAQ
  • Feel like Russia is ruthless when it comes to business? - there's news for you as the Moscow Exchange also comes in higher than its New York cousins
  • Look down on Spain and Italy within the Eurozone? - they both trump the Deutsche Börse

This surely cannot last?

Are so many US companies going to keep ducking below the parapet while, even in 2009 at the height of recession, 83% of respondents to a US survey said a company's commitment to sustainable practices is important in their purchasing decisions?  And when, just this year, a Yale University study found strengthening beliefs in human contribution to climate change?  Continued silence on sustainability data is not sustainable.

What about the Middle East - accounting for 3 of the 5 stock exchanges with fewest companies reporting on sustainability?  During a time of significant scrutiny of approaches to urban development, and working conditions for those building there, it cannot be long before companies start waking up to the reputational damage that perceived involvement in poor practices can cause.

It will be interesting to see how many of these large companies get with the program over the next year.