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Reports 1 Jul 2019

The 2019 Sustainability Leaders

The GlobeScan-SustainAbility Survey

By Mark Lee and Bron York

As part of the The 2019 Sustainability Leaders survey, GlobeScan and SustainAbility asked over 800 experts representing business, government, NGOs and academia across 78 countries to evaluate the progress that institutions have made since the 1992 Earth Summit.

We also analyze expert views on which companies are considered to be leading on integrating sustainability into their business strategy, as well as which NGOs are making the largest contribution to advancing the sustainable development agenda.

The 2019 GlobeScan-SustainAbility Leaders Survey shows a slightly more balanced assessment of the corporate leadership landscape. While Unilever’s eight-year trend of sustainability leadership continues, companies such as Patagonia, IKEA, Natura and Danone have all gained ground.

While Unilever remains in the number one position, with mentions from 37% of expert respondents, its ranking is down 10 points compared to 2018. These changes coincide with a changing of the guard at Unilever, with Paul Polman stepping down as CEO in January 2019, and Alan Jope still in the process of carving out his own leadership identity at the company. At the same time, IKEA, Patagonia, Natura and Danone have been ramping up their ambition and impact.

Unilever remains in the number one position, with mentions from 37% of expert respondents.

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Interface, the only company to have been mentioned as a top leader in every year the survey has ever been conducted, is the fourth most mentioned company. As in 2018, Nestlé, M&S, and Tesla also make up the top 10 list of companies.

The 2019 Leaders Survey reveals that integrating sustainability values and making sustainability part of the core business model are the key characteristics recognized by expert respondents as defining corporate leadership.

Among recognized regional sustainability leaders, Natura dominates in Latin America, while Patagonia leads in North America and Unilever and IKEA perform strongly in Europe. In Africa, Aramex and Woolworths claim the top position, while Toyota leads in Asia-Pacific.

The private sector, institutional investors and national governments are called out by experts as making the poorest contribution to sustainable development globally. In contrast, experts view the contributions NGOs are making to the transition to sustainable development very positively and point to WWF, Greenpeace, WRI, Oxfam and the Nature Conservancy as leading the charge.

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