New Environmental Sustainability Index Shows Businesses Are Still Optimistic On Climate Goals
by Daniel Newman | February 24, 2023
Listen to this article now

Sustainability initiatives are still as important as ever — at least that’s what the data is telling us. Our team at Futurum Research — in collaboration with Honeywell — have released the second edition of the Honeywell Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI). The report is a global, double-blind survey of more than 750 business, tech, and sustainability pros who are directly involved with environmental initiatives in their companies. The report is a continuation of the first edition, that was first published in December 2022. The goal is to provide transparency into corporate sustainability, both here in the United States and around the world. And according to the ESI, businesses are feeling pretty good about the work they’re doing to help save the environment.

Q1 2023 Environmental Sustainability Index: New Quarter, New Outlook

You wouldn’t think much would change in just a few short months, but it’s clear that the world is in a new — better — place. According to the ESI, the global pandemic has finally dropped to second place in terms of potential barriers to sustainability goals. Instead, the world seems to be moving back to business as usual. Unsurprisingly, economic and geopolitical issues is now the top concern for most companies. And while those are major concerns, it’s not slowing organizations down. Businesses globally continued to rank sustainability goals as their top business priority in the near-term (next six months). Better yet? More organizations are ranking sustainability as the top priority compared to last quarter (71% vs 65%). This is also consistently reflected across geographies as you can see in the table below.

Sustainability Leaders

Overall, organizations continue to believe they’re at least somewhat or extremely successful in meeting their environmental sustainability goals. In fact, 90 percent or more of businesses felt they were somewhat or extremely successful in reaching their goals in the past 12 months in each of the following areas: energy evolution and efficiency, emissions reduction, pollution prevention, and circularity recycling. Optimism about meeting goals for the next year, as well as goals for 2030, were also up to 72 and 77 percent, versus 61 and 69 percent last quarter. Perhaps it’s new technologies that have hit the market, reallocating budget spend (I’ll get to that in a second), or better education in the organization, but it’s promising to see success and optimism continue to trend in the right direction.

Overall Sustainability Sentiment

How Companies Are Approaching Sustainability Goals

Last quarter we saw organizations take a process-driven approach to achieving initiatives as opposed to a tech-based approach. This made sense at the time as we felt that more organizations were getting the structures put in place to make their changes a reality. This quarter, we are seeing a more balanced approach. Organizations are focusing on process and technology to achieve their goals in the next year.

Added to that, sustainability is a priority from a financial perspective too. I know that there has been a lot of shakeups in recent days across the tech sector, but sustainability is remaining a priority. While there is a slight dip in budget plans for energy evolution and efficiency, organizations plan to increase budgets overall.

Corp. Initiative Sustainability

What Q1 2023’s Sustainability Index is Signaling to the Market

The data in the report helps create a picture of how seriously sustainability initiatives are being embraced worldwide. For instance, we can see that in terms of emissions reduction, more than 85 percent of respondents in the Asia Pacific have specific goals whereas just 63 percent of North American respondents do. That shows we have some work to do in the United States in terms of educating corporations about the impact of global emissions. The report also breaks responses down by industry, so it offers a window into how various groups, from consumer goods to healthcare to tech, feel they’re doing in fighting climate change.

The good news is that we’re seeing more and more companies not just committing to take action on climate change but making transparent efforts toward clear science-based sustainability targets. For instance, just last week, T-Mobile shared some of the logic behind being the first U.S. wireless company to set a net-zero target validated by the Science Based Target Initiative (SBTi). SBTi is a global body that helps companies set emissions reductions goals and publishes exactly how well those companies are doing in meeting the goals every single week on its web dashboard. Targets are clearly defined, with both near and long-term goals. The dashboard, which can be downloaded as an Excel file, even includes the company’s current temperature alignment (1.5 degrees C, well-below 2 degrees C, and 2 degrees C.)

Even better, T-Mobile isn’t alone. Every day, more and more businesses are making commitments to science-based environmental change. In fact, research shows that the number of businesses making bold action commitments is growing nearly 20 percent year over year.

In other good news, the EU is putting together an anti-greenwashing law to ensure that businesses can properly substantiate any claims they make regarding green efforts. Data will be based on the Product Environmental Footprint methodology, which uses a life cycle analysis to measure environmental impact. This step comes as reports found 40 percent of green claims in the EU were exaggerated or deceptive.

Point being…we’re getting there. The more we learn, the more we share, the more data we collect, and the more technology companies continue to focus on solving climate issues, the closer we get toward making a real sustainable impact on the environment.

Disclosure: Futurum Research is a research and advisory firm that engages or has engaged in research, analysis, and advisory services with many technology companies, including those mentioned in this article. The author does not hold any equity positions with any company mentioned in this article.

Analysis and opinions expressed herein are specific to the analyst individually and data and other information that might have been provided for validation, not those of Futurum Research as a whole.

The original version of this article was first published on Forbes.

About the Author

Daniel Newman is the Chief Analyst of Futurum Research and the CEO of The Futurum Group. Living his life at the intersection of people and technology, Daniel works with the world’s largest technology brands exploring Digital Transformation and how it is influencing the enterprise. Read Full Bio