Executives back sustainability, but investment lags

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See how senior executives are using tech to reach their sustainability goals.

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Consumers, investors and employees are demanding that corporate leadership address the global climate crisis.

Senior business leaders are adopting advanced technologies to drive business growth and sharpen their competitive edge. But there is ample opportunity to use those same innovations to elevate their sustainability goals, as revealed in the second annual Business and the Fourth Wave of Environmentalism report.Download the report [PDF]

Uptake of new technology is surging

Businesses are embracing Fourth Wave technologies like never before. We saw increases across all sectors and all technology types that we examined in 2018 and 2019, with one surprising exception — uptake of blockchain in the manufacturing industry has decreased year over year.

All

Retail

Manufacturing

Energy

Tech

Finance

Share of companies adopting each of these advanced technologies.

Competition is driving tech investment

The vast majority of business leaders — 94% of them — agree that competition is the driving force behind their investments in emerging technologies.

Share of leaders who agree emerging tech is essential to staying competitive.

Investment lags, creating an opportunity gap

Despite an overwhelming belief that emerging tech can boost both ROI and sustainability, only 59% of leaders are actually investing in tech for this purpose. This 33-point gap represents a critical opportunity for companies to deliver on their sustainability commitments and lead on climate — potentially gaining a competitive advantage with consumers and investors.

What business leaders believe (left) and their actual investment (right).

Stakeholder pressure is rising...

Across every sector, business leaders are feeling the heat from all stakeholders to address their environmental impact. That includes consumers, investors, employees, regulators and businesses holding themselves to account.

All

Retail

Manufacturing

Energy

Tech

Finance

...yet goals are more at odds

Surprisingly, the share of executives who say their business and environmental objectives are at odds has risen, increasing 37 points since 2018.

Share of execs who say their business and environmental objectives are at odds.

When asked why goals were more aligned or at odds, lack of regulation stood out as a key driver.

The reasons given for the balance of business and environmental objectives.

Which path are you on?

While 42% of executives surveyed admitted that a lack of clear return on their sustainability investments was holding them back, they do have a choice — make the case for savings within their organizations or risk being left behind. Fortunately, there is plentiful evidence that using advanced tech for sustainability can also benefit the bottom line.

Get the report for details on the technologies and opportunities that business leaders are exploring to close the gap between their sustainability commitments and their actual investments toward those goals.

Download the report [PDF]

Environmental Defense Fund commissioned KRC Research to survey 600 business leaders at the CEO, VP/SVP and director levels in companies with $500 million to $5 billion in revenue. The sample was balanced across five industries: retail, manufacturing, energy, technology and finance.

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