IBM: Financing sustainability concepts problematic for many companies

February 29, 2024. Many companies have difficulties in financing their sustainability concepts. This is the result of a new global study by the IBM (NYSE: IBM) Institute for Business Value (IBV). The data was collected on the basis of a survey of 5,000 managers worldwide.

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According to the study* “Beyond checking the box – how to create business value with embedded sustainability”, a third (33%, Europe: 25%, globally: 30%) of German managers stated that they had made significant progress in implementing their sustainability strategy – a figure that applied to just 9% across Europe a year ago (globally: 10%). However, many still find it a challenge to translate targets into tangible results. Almost half (46%, Europe: 45%, globally: 47%) of respondents struggle to finance their sustainability investments; six in ten say they have to compromise between financial results and sustainable outcomes.

At the same time, the study shows in a global comparison that companies that embed sustainability deeply into their operations benefit from it. They are 75% more likely to achieve better business results based on their sustainability efforts. In addition, these companies are 52% (Germany: 54%) more likely to outperform their industry peers in terms of profitability.

The results also suggest that many companies are focusing primarily on meeting the complex and multifaceted reporting requirements, rather than addressing the actual benefits to the business and tangible results.

“Many companies have been pursuing a sustainability approach that may be holding them back. Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. However, sustainability first requires a consistent objective and a shared corporate vision that everyone can get behind,” says Oliver Gahr, Sustainability Leader Technology, IBM EMEA. “Sustainability should therefore become an integral part of day-to-day business and not be seen as an obligation for more compliance and reporting. By integrating sustainability throughout the company, companies can drive innovation internally in a targeted manner and thus attract qualified specialists. Overall, they are better positioned to have a positive impact on the environment and achieve better financial results.”

An overview of the most important points:

More spending on reporting than on sustainability initiatives.

  • Sustainability reporting spend exceeds spending on innovation by 47% (Europe: 43%, globally: 43%).
  • Only 24% (Europe: 28%, globally: 31%) of executives surveyed integrate sustainability data and insights to a high degree to improve operational processes.
  • In contrast, 14% (Europe: 14%, globally: 14%) incorporate sustainability considerations, data and insights into their innovation initiatives to a high degree.
    Companies are striving for more sustainability, but have difficulties with measures for financing, qualification and operationalization.
  • 73% (Europe: 75%, globally: 75%) of the German executives surveyed agree that sustainability leads to better business results and for 75% (Europe: 72%, globally: 76%) sustainability is of central importance.
  • 84% (Europe: 82%, globally: 82%) of respondents believe that high-quality data and transparency are needed to achieve sustainability results,
  • 39% of global executives also cite a lack of knowledge and skills as the biggest barrier to progress on sustainability.

Executives expect generative AI to be a key driver of sustainability efforts in the future.

  • 72% (Europe: 67%, globally: 64%) of executives surveyed agree that generative AI will be important to their sustainability efforts.
  • 76% (Europe: 76%, globally: 73%) say they plan to increase their investment in generative AI for sustainability.

The study, “Beyond checking the box – how to create business value with embedded sustainability”, highlights the need for companies to integrate sustainability goals into their business strategy. Technologies such as AI help to make greater progress and achieve higher profitability. The study also serves as a decision-making and action guide for executives. It describes actionable strategies that can help organizations overcome challenges in the areas of data, business integration and decision-making.

Study methodology

The study is based on a survey of 5,000 executives across 22 industries and 22 countries, conducted by the IBM Institute for Business Value in collaboration with Oxford Economics. In addition to the descriptive analysis, the respondents’ data was examined to enable segmentation of the sample in terms of the degree to which sustainability is embedded in the company. Based on this segmentation, an analysis of differences in sustainability and business outcomes, operational practices and approaches to making progress on sustainability was conducted.

The IBM Institute for Business Value, IBM’s thought leadership think tank, combines global research and performance data with the knowledge of industry experts and leading academics to deliver insights that make leaders smarter.

About IBM

IBM is a leader in global hybrid cloud, AI and consulting. We help clients in more than 175 countries commercialize insights from their data, optimize business processes, reduce costs and remain leaders in their industries. Thousands of government agencies and organizations in critical infrastructure sectors such as financial services, telecommunications and healthcare rely on IBM’s hybrid cloud platform and Red Hat OpenShift for fast, efficient and secure digital transformation. IBM’s breakthrough innovations in AI, quantum computing, industry-specific cloud solutions and consulting provide open and flexible options for our clients. All underpinned by IBM’s long-standing commitment to trust, transparency, accountability, inclusion and service.

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Further links

👉 www.ibm.com  
👉 To the full study

Photo: IBM

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