Sustainability is more than an option – it is core business

The Recommendations for Business Leaders: The Complex Interpretaion of Corporate Sustainability summarises seven key features of corporate sustainability. Several of these principles are about “putting our house in order” through reviewing basic business processes and operations. Skipping this task, some companies started by jumping into campaigning and undertaking ad hoc action which did not generate the positive feedback they expected. The results of BCSDH’s latest survey show that companies have started to reorganize these ad hoc actions into a more strategic approach and also to transform their core operations. Some people may feel that sustainable development is being held back or has even stagnated because most of these activities are invisible to external stakeholders. However, in the background, this action, which really needs a lot of resources and commitment, is continuing.

At the time of signing the Recommendations, 61% of all of the companies reported that they were focusing mainly on their Strategic approach— by now this number has increased to 82%. It is becoming more and more difficult for business leaders to create and follow a strategy of fostering sustainable development because of an unpredictable and unsteady operating environment and increasing demands for turnover and profit. Thus this will only be possible if they really integrate sustainability into their core business strategies. Good examples of how this can be done include changing product and service portfolios, creating shared value instead of maximising shareholder value, extending responsibility through the whole value chain and turning donations into social investments. Respondents reported to making the most significant effort and achieving most results in the field of Ethical and Transparent operations. All respondents reported that they have put a great deal of effort into shaping ethical behaviour in the past. 96% of them also outlined outstanding results at improving transparency within the company (for example, through internal and external reporting processes and developing internal communications).

More and more companies are saying no to corruption and bribery and have announced a zero tolerance policy for their employees. Based on the opinions of respondents, the Hungarian business sector mostly needs to focus on developing a strategic approach to sustainable development in the near future. 86% of respondents had been working hard to transfer values and principles into Responsible Management processes and corporate governance and 53% of them also stated that this would remain a priority for the future. The greatest challenge in this area is to gain the full commitment of business managers and to build sustainability-related targets into performance management and reward systems.

Most of the development that occurred happened with Cooperation with stakeholdersbut the biggest gap can still be identified here. Half of all companies say that they placed high priority on this issue last year, but this year the proportion had increased to 79%. Good examples are stakeholder engagement projects (like research and consultations, supplier programs and partnerships with NGOs). The survey also shows that Respect for human values and environmental responsibility are the most developed areas at respondent companies. Key at all companies is Health and Safety and employment practices have become more sustainable through the introduction of a typical forms of work, the employment of disabled people and measures to deal with diversity and gender issues. Environmental responsibility is demonstrated by the measuring, decreasing or neutralizing of negative emissions, complex climate change programs, zero waste operations or the increasing of recycling. Environmental responsibility also extends beyond the boundaries of companies when green issues are put into the spotlight during supply chain and logistics activities, the education of customers and consumers and green office operations.

Have we reached an important milestone in sustainable development? It seems as though we may be at a turning point: either sustainability becomes a part of strategic management or it may deleted from the agenda of the corporates. The commitment and endurance of business leaders will decide which of the two possibilities will become reality.

Download the full survey from here: BCSDH_Survey_2013


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