Survey: 85% say pandemic ‘wake-up call’ for sustainability

By Kate Birch
Research from Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week and Masdar shows COVID-19 pandemic is having a profound impact on business perceptions of ESG issues...

Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW) and its host, renewable energy company Masdar, has released a global survey shining light on how businesses are responding to Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) in the wake of COVID-19.

ESG Beyond Tipping Point surveyed 525 executives from businesses with annual revenues above US$250 million and found 87% considered ESG performance one of their core strategic objectives, while 85% saw the pandemic as a wake-up call on sustainability.

The research found 65% of respondents expect to realise the financial benefit of ESG investment within the next two years, including 35% who expect it within the next 12 months.

“Fifteen years on since Masdar was formed, ESG has reached enough of a critical mass across all sectors that it is unlikely that we will see a return to the old profits-above-all models of the past,” said Yousef Ahmed Baselaib, Executive Director, Strategy & Corporate Development at Masdar.

“Those companies that ignore ESG will lose their relevance in the post-COVID era.”

ESG important to all stakeholders post-COVID

Nearly half of those surveyed (49%) said they are prioritising ESG because it is important to investors.

The research also highlighted geographical differences and industry-specific approached to ESG. For example, 70% of respondents from Asia-Pacific said their company was committed to achieving net-zero compared to just 33% from the Middle East.

Finding the right balance between profit and sustainability to please both shareholders and customers also varied across industries, with 68% of those from the technology sector saying it was possible to achieve, compared to 38% in the transport sector.

The survey also suggested organisations need to pay close attention to sustainability in order to attract and retain talent. Of those surveyed, 52% would be prepared to take a pay cut to move to a company with a better ESG performance. And 51% intend to create new management positions with an ESG focus in the next 12 months, with those in Asia-Pacific and EMEA leading the way.

All stakeholder groups, according to the survey, are embracing ESG principles as it becomes a battleground for business.

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