Response base: 2,000 senior leaders
Source: Economist Impact Survey 2022
Of course, setting targets is just the start of an ESG initiative, and should be followed by both operationalization and a plan to remediate any areas of weakness. But Figure 2 illustrates the sentiment-to-activity gap writ large—a much smaller proportion of respondents are building plans to address the sustainability gaps they discover. And just over one-third have put dedicated staff, resources and structures in place to accelerate sustainability by, for instance, analyzing its strategic context, mitigating risk or discerning opportunities for how sustainability principles could drive value creation.
Crucially, embedding ESG into day-to-day activities requires a change in attitude and work practices. The issue is, ESG is typically viewed as a separate or parallel priority to business-as-usual, according to Cognizant’s read of the survey findings.
Instead, ESG should be made a core tenet of the business strategy, with a common purpose and culture flowing around it. Currently, only 47% of respondents are incorporating environmental sustainability into their corporate strategy, and this percentage drops to 35% when it comes to social responsibility (see Figure 3).
When it comes to respondents’ social impact initiatives, we see an even more muted response than with environmental sustainability. Again, the most common activity is the creation of internal targets, but the follow-up activities such as professional development and training, and creating dedicated teams, trail off significantly.
In which of the following ways does your company promote social impact?
Respondents were asked which actions their organization was taking to promote the company’s social impact. (Percentage of respondents selecting each measure)