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Sustainability improves bottom line for 44% of organisations

Sustainability is improving the bottom line for 44% of organisations, according to new research from NTT.

NTT published the results of a global corporate sustainability survey designed to identify the most effective business practices to advance sustainability goals. In a report titled, “Innovating for a Sustainable Future,” NTT, in partnership with ThoughtLab, found that 44% of companies experience improved profitability as a result of sustainability. This indicates that sustainability programs are now both an ethical and a business imperative to drive positive change and deliver better financial results.

Additionally, 69% of global executives agree that digital innovation is key to achieving sustainability goals across environmental, social and economic areas.

The global study of 500 companies examines how firms incorporate sustainability into their business strategies and the outcomes they are experiencing.

The survey finds that now more than ever, organisations are taking sustainability practices seriously. Of the organisations surveyed, 68% report that building a sustainable future is a top priority for their boards.

The report found the pandemic proved to be a watershed moment for many organisations, with 47% stating that the pandemic elevated the importance of sustainability goals.

Among the top benefits as a result of sustainability initiatives, 33% of organisations experience decreased costs through improved efficiencies, 32% experience greater innovation and/or new business models and 24% experience increased revenue growth.

Only 12% of organisations worldwide indicate that sustainability is mostly “lip service” and nearly four out of ten companies state that customers, employees, shareholders and communities expect them to drive positive change.

“As the global population refocuses its attention on the health and wellbeing of people and the planet, we have seen a renewed commitment from organisations to implement and advance sustainable business practices,” says Vito Mabrucco, head of global marketing at NTT.

“At the same time, the health of people versus the health of profits is not an either-or-decision; sustainability and profitability are becoming mutually reliant," he says.

The report defines “sustainable development” in accordance with the United Nations' 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a blueprint for creating a more sustainable future by 2030. NTT has aligned its business objectives with these SDGs, which cover three key categories: social good, environment, and economic growth and development.

As part of the survey, NTT and ThoughtLab grouped companies into three maturity categories (beginners, intermediates and advanced/leaders) based on their progress within a framework of 10 initiatives for driving sustainable innovation, including:

Develop a vision, strategy, implementation plan and budget.
Develop an effective organisational structure, skills and resources.
Communicate goals to all stakeholders: investors, customers and employees.
Set, track and report metrics for sustainability performance.
Drive supply chain efficiency and operational innovation.
Lead product and service innovation.
Embrace business model innovation.
Harness advanced digital technology.
Integrate sustainability goals and metrics into investment decisions.
Utilise a commonly used measurement framework (such as GRI, SASB or TCFD).

Looking exclusively at the achievements from leaders, NTT has outlined a set of best practices based off the analysis of the study to help organisations achieve their sustainability goals. These best practices include:

Build the foundation for sustainability excellence. Set a clear sustainability vision, strategy and organisational structure; monitor performance against sustainability metrics; and incorporate sustainability deep into the business.
Harness digital innovation to drive sustainability results. For leaders, sustainability and digital innovation are two sides of the same coin. Leaders draw more on digital technologies, particularly the cloud, AI and IoT, and understand that the best results come from interconnecting them.
Build partnerships that work together to deliver on common sustainability goals. Leaders not only work more closely with supply chains; they also develop ties with a wider range of partners, from multilateral organisations and NGOs to industry and consumer groups.

The publishing of the study coincides with the launch of NTT's Innovation for a Sustainable Future program. Designed to showcase the positive impact of technology, digital transformation and R-D to deliver sustainability and social benefits, the program outlines the intersection of technology innovation and the need for long term sustainability.

As part of the program, NTT will provide organisations with information and resources to implement sustainability practices through strategic technology investments and innovation. The goal is for organisations of all sizes to contribute to long-term sustainability that positively impacts people, the planet and prosperity. 

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