Sustainability a business opportunity, says BT

The threat of global warming is a major opportunity that UK PLC is wasting, says a BT sponsored report by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

The threat of global warming is a major opportunity that UK PLC is wasting, says a BT sponsored report by the Economist Intelligence Unit.

The good news is that British companies are moving away from rhetoric towards commercial opportunities, if the report's findings are accurate. Corporates are attempting to reduce carbon emmisions through IT programmes with HSBC reducing datacentre power consumption through virtualisation and Barclays using thin clients to reduce carbon output two recent examples.

The BT study, of 1100 international executives, revealed that UK organisations fail to realise the business benefits of sustainability programmes. Of the 200 UK representatives interviewed, 100 said sustainability programmes helped improve brand value, while only 16% felt they improved profitability.

This would indicate the UK lags behind by its foreign competitors. Far fewer people in the UK (26%) have been given sustainability goals to achieve, which compares to a global average of 37%. The proportion of UK executives whose pay depends on hitting sustainability goals is half that of the global average (9% as opposed to 18%).

Is sustainability actually sustainable? Not according to the responses from UK executives. Research indicates that sustainability is an issue that could be exploited for branding purposes, but not as a commercial force. Nearly one third (29%) of UK respondents admit their company only takes sustainability action to influence perceptions. A similar number (25%) admitted sustainability is about communication, not actual change.

James Watson, senior editor at the Economist Intelligence Unit, said: "Companies are moving away from rhetoric towards real business initiatives. But a gap remains."

"The link between sustainability and commercial success is, without a doubt, becoming clearer all the time," said Tim Smart, CEO, BT Global Services UK, though he did not actually outline what it is. "From BT's point of view, our own sustainability performance is helping us win deals, create new offerings and build enthusiasm among our workforce."

The full report, "Action or Aspiration: Sustainability in the British Workplace", is available online.

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