A United Nations survey of global chief executives has found a majority say more support from government is needed to overcome financial and market barriers to sustainability.
The Un report indicated more than two-thirds of global chief executives believe that business is not doing enough to address global sustainability challenges.
Of the 1000 chief executives surveyed for the UN Global Compact paper, 93 per cent said environmental, social and governance issues are important to the future of their business.
Another 78 per cent viewed sustainable practices as a route to growth and innovation, while 79 per cent said they offer a competitive advantage in their industry.
While 84 per cent said businesses should be leading the way in addressing sustainability, shrinking financial resources, customer ambivalence, and failing to make the business case were all listed as barriers to progress since the previous study in 2010.
Finance was identified as the biggest barrier by more than half of the respondents and 40 per cent said the poor economic conditions had made it difficult for companies to embed sustainability into their core business.
Almost two-thirds of chief executives said they could not accurately quantify the business value of sustainability, which is seen as the second largest impediment to progress.
The UN report says while 52 per cent of respondents saw investor interest as a driver for sustainability practices, only 12 per cent considered investor pressure as a leading motivator.
The CEOs also suggested businesses had made little progress in convincing consumers that sustainability was a “must-have”.
The survey suggested businesses were looking to governments to help them advance the sustainability agenda.
This was evidenced by 85 per cent wanting clearer policy and market signals to support green growth, with 55 per cent calling for regulations and standards to be prioritised and 43 per cent pointing to subsidies and incentives.
However, Peter Lacy, managing director of Accenture Sustainability and Strategy Services in the Asia Pacific region, and study lead, insisted chief executives “have not lost faith” in the role of business to drive sustainability.
“To move from incremental to large-scale transformation, businesses must accept that instead of persuading consumers about sustainability they must give them sustainable products and services they want at prices they can afford,” he added.
“And instead of showing investors the savings made from sustainability, they will have to demonstrate the positive business value it can generate.”