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PwC: Some way to go in integrating sustainability

By Rob Starr, Content Manager, Big4.com

According to a report released by professional services firm PwC several motivations, which are not core to the company’s strategy, still play an important role in driving the process of integrating sustainability into companies. These include corporate citizenship and reputation. To be doing and being seen to be ‘doing the right thing’ were recognised as the most significant motivators for addressing sustainability. Strategic risk, which ranked third, is central to effective integrated management in line with the philosophy contained in the Code of Governance Principles for South Africa, 2009 (King III).

Jayne Mammatt an Associate Director within PwC’s Sustainability and Integrated Reporting Department, says: “We live in a world in which sustainability can no longer be viewed as a ‘nice-to -have’ or a green issue managed by an isolated unit within a business. Rather, sustainability which involves managing risks and opportunities affecting long-term viability needs to be integrated into every facet of an organisation and its approach to doing business.”

“There is much focus on ‘reporting’, but this is only as good as the ‘doing’ and addressing this is not without its challenges for companies today.”

PwC’s inaugural publication entitled ‘Paving the way to a sustainable future”, aims to assess how well sustainability is being embedded in the strategy, risk management and daily operations of the top 100 companies listed on the JSE. The results will provide a point of reference for subsequent research in years to come. The top 100 companies by market capitalisation, as listed on the JSE on 31 July 2012, were invited to participate in the survey. Of these, 20 companies from a broad spectrum of industries provided a complete response to all survey questions within the time frame.

The majority of companies (67%) have implemented board sponsorship of sustainability, with only a few companies applying ownership at the management or operational level. “This can be seen as a positive indication of the effective mainstreaming of sustainability, as the ‘tone at the top’ is central to determining the actions and options implemented within the company concerned,” says Mammatt.

While 71% of companies report that sustainability issues are major considerations in their organisation’s strategic discussions, the remaining 29% report that they play a less important roll. In these companies, sustainability has not been fully recognised, articulated or understood as providing an essential framework for the long-term value and viability of a business.

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