A recent survey by Gartner, Inc. has found that over two-thirds (69 per cent) of CEOs view sustainability as a leading business growth opportunity this year.

The 2024 Gartner CEO and Senior Business Executive Survey was conducted from July to December 2023 among over 400 CEOs and other senior business executives in North America, Europe, Asia/Pacific, Latin America, the Middle East and South Africa, across different industries, revenue and company sizes.

Kristin Moyer, Distinguished VP Analyst at Gartner said: “As CEOs reset their long-term strategies, environmental sustainability remains one of the leading factors that will frame competition. Despite much corporate greenwash, recent economic conditions could have triggered a reversion to environmental, social and governance (ESG) cynicism and a refocus on profit at all costs. However, the overall commitment of CEOs appears unwavering.”

Moyer continued: “Sustainability consistently remains a top 10 business priority, surpassing even productivity and efficiency this year. Leaders and investors know environmentally cavalier corporate behaviour is a mid- to long-term risk to business results, with a big price to be paid when environmental factors are ignored as externalities. However, smart CEOs realise big sustainability challenges create new areas of business opportunity.”

The survey found that the leading ways CEOs are using sustainability to drive business growth are through sustainable products and services (33 per cent); sustainable business practices (18 per cent); stakeholder engagement (18 per cent); and decarbonisation (18 per cent). Digital investments and innovation is ranked ninth at eight per cent.

According to Gartner, digital technology plays an important role in driving both financial and sustainability outcomes. For example, the Internet of Things (IoT), data and analytics can optimise wind turbines, which reduces costs and greenhouse gas emissions. AI and IoT can reduce food loss costs and waste; whereas a circular economy marketplace can create new revenue and reduce waste.

The Gartner survey also revealed 54 per cent of CEOs say their businesses are affected by changing weather patterns, at least moderately. The biggest impact of changing weather patterns cited by CEOs is operating dynamics (30 per cent), particularly changes to logistics, such as warehousing, timing and routing of deliveries. Relocations (including nearshoring) comes in second (14 per cent), followed by automation, technology and data (13 per cent).

Over half (51 per cent) acknowledge changing weather patterns are causing them to plan changes to the way they operate or have already done so.