Executives are prioritising sustainability in new strategies, findings reveal

United Arab Emirates, Dubai: A survey carried out by global research and advisory company Oxford Business Group (OBG) assesses the observations of international C-suite executives on a broad range of issues related to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) principles, including the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on their decision-making.

Titled “Renewed focus: How the Covid-19 pandemic shaped priorities around ESG principles”, this marks the first time the landmark survey has focused on ESG. Results comprise more than 350 respondents from across the regions covered by OBG, with questions concerning their current approach to ESG and incumbent challenges to growth.

The results of the survey can be viewed in full at https://oxfordbusinessgroup.com/blog/oliver-cornock/obg-ceo-surveys/esg-ceo-survey-board-room-getting-greener  

In its research, OBG surveyed executives based across the economic sectors, with financial services and energy highest in terms of representation.

The findings are supported by in-depth analysis from OBG’s Editor-in-Chief Oliver Cornock and the firm’s four Regional Editors, who explore the specific characteristics of the markets they cover and track their ESG journeys.

Significantly, more than 60% of global respondents said the pandemic had moderately or significantly impacted their understanding and/or appetite for ESG, in a sign that the health crisis had spotlighted vulnerabilities in supply chains and other areas, and encouraged companies to put sustainability at the heart of new strategies.

In his contribution, Patrick Cooke, OBG’s Regional Editor for the Middle East, said that the governments of all six Gulf Cooperation Council members have, to varying degrees, formulated their long-term strategies to diversify their economies, reduce public subsidies and stimulate the creation of productive and attractive job opportunities in the private sector. 

“It is positive to note that these strategies have increasingly placed an emphasis on environmental sustainability, social progress and good governance as they have evolved over time,” he said. “I expect to see further acceleration of corporate ESG adoption in the region over the next few years as a result of public incentives, new regulatory requirements and the growing importance that international investors place on ESG adherence.”

In a question about obstacles to ESG adherence, respondents cited insufficient financing and incentives or penalties for non-compliance, was cited as the biggest challenge faced by companies, garnering 20.4% of the response. 

OBG also asked executives about their priorities for environmental sustainability over the next 12 months. Here, sustainable investment took the top spot, cited by 22% of interviewees, followed by renewable energy (19%). 

In a sign of the increased broad-based focus on ESG, more than one-third (35%) of those interviewed said they expected their company to prioritise funding for all-three pillars, although governance was mentioned least often as an individual area.

Oliver Cornock, OBG’s Editor-in-Chief, said that while the Covid-19 pandemic could have resulted in the adoption of ESG principles being sidelined, the opposite had in fact happened, as the survey showed.

“Shareholders and investors are now factoring ESG strategy and trajectory into their decision-making, and consumers are similarly becoming more aware of the fairness and sustainability of the goods they use, the clothes they wear and the services they pay for,” he said. “This is equally true for foreign investors who are looking at the ESG environment, regulations and incentives of the countries in which they are considering doing business.” 

Cornock said OBG’s survey also reaffirmed that while the battle for environmental sustainability was being won on many levels, the relatively low showing for governance represented a challenge for some of the emerging markets looking to attract foreign investment.

“The tacit acceptance that corruption is simply a part of doing business in some places is one of the most significant barriers to advancing the governance segment,” he noted. “Progress in the environmental sustainability and social spheres cannot reach its full potential until the correct governance structures are in place and effectively enforced.”

Cornock’s viewpoint can be found in full on OBG’s Editor’s Blog, alongside additional analysis by all of OBG’s Regional Editors on the markets that they cover. Titled “Next Frontier”, the blog serves as a platform for OBG’s experts to share their thoughts on the latest developments taking place across the sectors of the 30+ high-growth markets covered by the company’s research.   

OBG began producing its CEO Surveys in 2016 as a way of giving licence-holders a handle on business sentiment in the economies it covers, termed the Yellow Slice markets, in reference to its corporate colour. Since then, they have become a highly popular and integral part of the firm’s portfolio of research tools. 

The OBG CEO Surveys form part of the Group’s tailored studies that the company is currently producing, alongside other highly relevant, go-to research tools, including a range of country-specific Growth and Recovery Outlook articles and interviews. The full results of the surveys are available online and in print. Similar studies are also under way in the many markets in which OBG operates. 

About OBG CEO Surveys

OBG CEO Survey Copyright (c). All rights reserved.

This survey has been designed to assess business sentiment among corporate leaders (Chief

Executive or equivalent) and their outlook for the next 12 months.

The Global ESG CEO Survey was conducted across the full range of industries, company sizes and functional specialties. The results are anonymous. 

This CEO Survey is based on 362 responses from companies in the following regions:

• 24.0% from Asia 

• 22.4% from Africa 

• 15.7% from the Middle East 

• 11.0% from Latin America and the Caribbean 

• 15.7% from Europe 

• 7.2% from the US and Canada 

• 4.0% from Oceania 

The data generated allows for analysis of sentiment within an individual country, as well as regionally and globally. Additionally, comparisons can be drawn between both individual countries and regionally. The results are presented statistically within infographics and discussed in articles written by OBG Regional Editors. OBG provides this survey, infographics and accompanying analysis from sources believed to be reliable, for information purposes only. OBG accepts no responsibility for any loss, financial or otherwise, sustained by any person or organisation using it. 

About Oxford Business Group:

Oxford Business Group (OBG) is a global research and advisory company with a presence in over 30 countries, spanning Asia, the Middle East, Africa and the Americas. It is recognised internationally as a distinctive and respected provider of on-the-ground intelligence on world’s fastest-growing markets, termed The Yellow Slice, in reference to OBG’s corporate colour. 

Through its range of products – Economic News and Views; OBG CEO Surveys; OBG Events and Conferences; Global Platform, which hosts exclusive video interviews; and The Report publications – as well as its Advisory division, OBG offers comprehensive and accurate analysis of macroeconomic and sector-level developments for sound investment opportunities and business decisions. 

OBG provides business intelligence to its subscribers through multiple platforms, including its direct 6 million verified subscribers, Dow Jones Factiva subscribers, the Bloomberg Professional Services subscribers, Refinitiv’s (previously Thomson Reuters) Eikon subscribers and more.