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Call for bold leadership as Sustainability hits a plateau

NEW YORK: October 12, 2016. A survey of its 250 corporate members by BSR, the sustainability business network, says Europeans have a more comprehensive approach in managing their supply chains compared to their peers in North America and "Others" worldwide.

Top of the priority list among all respondents regardless of region is implementing a supplier code of conduct – with 89 percent in Europe, 84 percent in North America and 78 percent for the rest of the planet. Apparently the least important imperative among BSR members is setting sustainability goals for suppliers at 40/31/37 percent respectively.

The same criterion measured by industry sector suggests food, agriculture, technology, manufacturing and media consider a supplier code of conduct the most important and again, sustainability goal-setting the least relevant to their business.

BSR surveyThe energy and extractives, healthcare, financial services and logistics sectors are lumped together under the ubiquitous "Other" and also rate a supplier code of conduct the most important and setting supplier goals the least.

According to Laura Gitman, BSR vice president and former Deloitte consultant, 49 percent of the companies questioned say sustainability is among their CEO's top five priorities, an increase of 35 percent since 2015.

This year's survey sees human rights and climate change as the two most important priorities among respondents followed by workers' rights and sustainable consumption.

However a survey by the Pew Research Center published at the same time as the second U.S. Presidential debate, concludes that only 15 percent of Trump supporters care about climate change while 49 percent don't – perhaps reflecting Trump's belief that climate change is a hoax created by the Chinese. This contrasts with 56 percent of Clinton supporters who "care a great deal" about the climate issue and 34 percent who "care some".

Hurricane Matthew, estimated by Goldman Sachs to have cost the U.S. economy US$10 billion, also closed the port of Savannah, America's fourth largest container port, for several days – an inconvenient truth for logistics companies during the run-up to North America's peak retail season.

"Despite great progress, we may have reached a plateau," declared Gitman in reference to the latest BSR survey: "The global agreements on climate change and sustainable development reached in 2015 provide a new direction for global ambition—and it is time for companies to be bolder in their corporate commitments, actions, collaborations, and leadership," she added.

While Clinton, with the recent support of Al Gore, has published a modest sustainability plan, Trump has declared a different leadership approach: more fossil fuel production, a closing down of the EPA, tax breaks for oil companies, and revocation of the just-ratified Paris Climate Agreement.

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