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A new era of sustainability in emerging markets? Insights from a global CEO study by the United Nations Global Compact and Accenture

Peter Lacy (Accenture Sustainability Services, London, UK)
Rob Hayward (Accenture Sustainability Services, London, UK)

Corporate Governance

ISSN: 1472-0701

Article publication date: 9 August 2011

Abstract

Purpose

As a multi‐speed recovery from the downturn accelerates progress towards a multi‐polar world in which economic power is more widely dispersed, the emerging markets will play a critical role in the future success of multinational companies. The imperatives faced by companies seeking to secure their future competitiveness can be better appreciated through an understanding of the sustainability landscape, and this paper seeks to examine perspectives on environmental, social and governance issues from CEOs in the emerging markets.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper is based on extensive conversations with business leaders, both through the authors' work with leading multinational companies and their survey of over 800 global CEOs conducted in partnership with the United Nations Global Compact – the largest CEO study on sustainability to date. In the spirit of contributing to the debate on corporate sustainability, the paper presents the findings not as an academic submission, but rather as a reflective practitioner paper based on the authors' applied research. Their intention throughout is to faithfully report the views of the CEOs interviewed and surveyed, offering in places the beginnings of their own explanation of their results, and highlighting areas for future research and engagement by academics and educators.

Findings

As one looks towards the next decade, and new waves of growth, it is clear that CEOs are beginning to recognize the scale of the challenge they face in aligning sustainability with core business. They also recognize, however, that this transition will depend on the economy's most powerful force, business – and that, with immediate and sustained action, individual companies can play a critical role in building the foundations of a more sustainable economy. From the wide‐ranging set of interviews and survey responses, it seems that nowhere does this seem to be more keenly felt than in the emerging markets, and it is hoped that this is a timely and useful contribution to advancing the debate, with a unique insight into the views of CEOs and global leaders on what it will take to reach a new era of sustainability.

Originality/value

This paper, based on extensive conversations with an unprecedented set of leading global CEOs, presents perspectives of leading CEOs in the emerging markets. By examining the forces shaping businesses' response to societal demands and the challenges of corporate sustainability, the authors set out some of the ways in which business is responding – and some of the capabilities that will be required to secure companies' competitiveness on the journey to a new era of sustainability.

Keywords

Citation

Lacy, P. and Hayward, R. (2011), "A new era of sustainability in emerging markets? Insights from a global CEO study by the United Nations Global Compact and Accenture", Corporate Governance, Vol. 11 No. 4, pp. 348-357. https://doi.org/10.1108/14720701111159208

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited