Executives say they’re committed to ESG, but data shows otherwise


In the past For several years, environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives have taken the business world by storm. The end result was no longer the only thing that mattered. Clients and investors alike wanted to know how companies are addressing a wide range of ESG issues, from climate change to diversity, equity and inclusion.

Recently, the model has come under increasing criticism. Political attacks on ESG principles, coupled with uncertain macroeconomic conditions, a focus on profit rather than growth and an energy crisis in Europe, have prompted some companies to scale back their promises, especially if they did not fully commit themselves from the start.

To be clear, many companies are making great strides in reducing their carbon footprint, an effort that falls under the broader framework of ESG considerations. This could include using cleaner energy sources for manufacturing, greener packaging for consumer products, or choosing cloud providers that strive to run the most energy-efficient data centers.

Regardless of how companies evolve towards becoming a greener organization, there is a question as to whether they are delivering on their promises, especially as the economy worsens. For some, ESG engagements are more about appearances than deeds. Unfortunately that is Google Cloud Sustainability Survey 2023 indicates that executives’ resolve is waning. That, or those who were just there for marketing reasons, are starting to become clear.

As evidence of this, the survey found that ESG concerns have fallen to third place on organizations’ priority lists this year, down from first place last year, due to economic pressures. “Many executives cite the macroeconomic environment and pressure from outside parties to scale back their sustainability initiatives and prioritize customer relationships and revenue growth,” the report reads.

Google commissioned the Harris survey to survey 1,476 VP and C-suite executives from various industries around the world. The report found that the number of sustainability projects implemented, rather than just planned, fell by 8% compared to the previous year.

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