Over two decades, we have witnessed an evolution of the terms upon which organizations are recognized for their leadership in sustainability, and expect them to become only more demanding.
This report represents a significant milestone. Sustainability Leaders, the longest- running survey of its kind, marks 20 years of tracking expert opinions on the evolution of the sustainability agenda and perceptions of leading organizations most responsible for driving it forward.
For the seventh year in a row, Unilever is ranked as the premier global sustainability leader, receiving nearly half the total mentions by experts.
Since the launch of our first Sustainability Leaders report in 1997, we have seen our respondent pool grow to become a truly global cohort representing experienced sustainability experts from all six continents. From a small survey on what at the time was still seen as a niche topic, Sustainability Leaders has become one of the most respected global surveys tracking perceptions of organizational performance and evolution of leadership attributes. This year, more than 1,000 qualified experts in 79 countries submitted responses to our questions. The results reinforced several distinct trends that we have observed unfolding in recent years.
First, for the seventh year in a row, Unilever is ranked by as the premier global sustainability leader, receiving nearly half the total mentions by global experts. Unilever is the most dominant corporate leader in our survey’s history, with its margin of leadership expanding each year. Patagonia and Interface occupy the second and third positions, with IKEA, Natura, M&S, Tesla, Nestlé, Nike, GE and BASF also landing on the list of highest-ranked companies.
Second, Interface placed in the top cohort of leadership yet again this year, something it has done every year since the survey’s inception. Interface is the only company to have achieved this, which reflects the remarkable dedication, clarity of vision and meaningful action the company has demonstrated in pursuit of a more sustainable business model since the 1990s, and the widespread admiration this has won.
A handful of consumer- facing companies with powerful visions and values continue to win more share of mind among experts and it’s becoming harder for others to break through.
And third, as select few corporate leaders continue to gain share of recognition, the 2017 survey results show that the gap between top leaders and the rest continues to widen. A handful of consumer-facing companies with powerful visions and values continue to win more share of mind among experts and it’s becoming harder for others to break through.
Our survey has shown that values, committed executive leadership and making sustainability part of their core operations is what has earned corporate leaders admiration from experts to date. The attributes that experts believe will matter the most over the next decade are integrating sustainability values, demonstrating a clear vision and fostering transparency.
We thank you for being part of this journey and look forward to tracking the evolution of leadership and sustainable development agenda over the next 20 years.