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Center survey reflects growth in importance of environmental concerns to business

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There is no shortage of perspectives about climate change, its causes, or the effects it has on the Earth and its inhabitants. With New York and the Mid-Atlantic States experiencing two “100-year storms” in the past 10 years, climate change has been on the minds of many.  The economics are worth considering.  According to a recent report issued by Munich RE, just shy of half of overall losses due to natural catastrophes happen in well-insured countries (the U.S. and Canada, the EU and Australia) but almost 90 percent of insured losses happen in those countries.  As we think about how to manage risk, and as more people and corporations in developing economies seek to protect their economic progress, this challenge looms larger.

Executives who participated in our 2012 State of Corporate Citizenship survey make it clear that environmental concerns are growing in importance to their companies’ business success and survey respondents predict environmental programs will have the highest increases in investment among corporate citizenship priorities.

A recent Ernst & Young study conducted with the GreenBiz Intelligence Panel may offer some insight into what is driving a shift in priorities. According to Ernst & Young, 38 percent of executives say that equity analysts covering their firms consider environmental sustainability in their evaluations. Another 23 percent believe that sustainability will begin to factor into these evaluations within five years.

Investor and analyst evaluations are not the only factors in the rising priority of environmental issues.  Executives from those industries most dependent on raw materials and natural resources – such as mining, utilities, and construction – are most likely to report deriving value from protecting the natural environment, and say more frequently that environmental efforts contribute to overall business success.

More than 90 percent of respondents identified their customers as the stakeholders considered the most as citizenship initiatives are developed. We put a tracking question into the field with The Nielsen Company in its Global Socially Conscious Consumer Study, to compare perspectives of U.S. executives with those of global consumers. There is a high level of agreement across all demographic and regional segments that companies should be held responsible for environmental sustainability.

All of these data suggest that even if a corporation is fortunate enough to avoid losses related to weather or climate, consumers will expect that business harnesses its resources to help solve our environmental problems. The State of Corporate Citizenship provides some insight as to where executives see the best synergy as they invest in protecting company and natural resources.

More information on the findings in the 2012 State of Corporate Citizenship report is available on the Center website. Members can access the full report and an Executive Summary of the findings. Highlights of the findings are available to non-members. For information on becoming a member, contact Rick Ward at wardrm@bc.edu.

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