Are You Smarter Than a CEO?

Urjanet Inc  |  July 27, 2016   |  Energy & Sustainability  


One of the primary goals of a corporate sustainability initiative is to reach the average consumer, both to generate a positive impact on members of society, and to influence the consumer’s trust in the company’s brand and reputation. Accenture Strategy and UN Global Compact recently released a survey of over 1,000 CEOs in over 100 countries across the globe, gathering their opinions on corporate sustainability efforts.

55% of CEOs surveyed see consumers as a key influencer, more than any other stakeholder. 79% say that brand, trust, and reputation drives them to act on sustainability. So if connecting with the consumer is a priority for a company when it comes to sustainability and energy efficiency efforts, are companies being smart enough with their strategy?

Let’s meet the contestants. Take a peek into the mindset of today’s CEO and see how it compares with the mindset of today’s consumer.

What the CEO Thinks

Promisingly, a full 97% of CEOs surveyed believe that sustainability is important to the future success of their business. Their main avenue for achieving innovation and progress in this arena is, unsurprisingly, technology.

75% see digital technologies as enabling more sustainable business models. “Technology plays a major role in our ability to positively impact the world. It is a great mobilizer, and when harnessed, it shrinks the world and unites us,” says Carmen Castillo, President and CEO, SDI International Corp.

Ideally, this technology would not only unite the business with the consumer, but also help sustainability managers gain insight into their projects and assess value. Yet while CEOs’ confidence has grown over the past few years – 59% say that their company is able to accurately quantify the business value of their sustainability initiatives, up from 38% in 2013 – they are still far from 100% confident.

What they are likely missing in their endeavors is proper utilization of data. In order to combine the potential of technology with an accurate assessment of its value, companies need to get better at critically analyzing their data.

Now how does this compare with what the average consumer wants to see from companies’ sustainability strategies? We conducted a random survey of 100 people over the age of 18 across the United States.

What the Consumer Thinks

CEO Sustainability Strategy97% of those surveyed agreed that companies should have at least a general awareness of their energy use and be attempting to reduce their carbon footprint. Only 3% said that companies only need to know what affects their costs and their bottom lines.

Within the 97% in support of understanding energy use in the context of sustainability, 23% answered that companies should have a general awareness of energy spend and be making efforts to minimize energy consumption. 29% answered that companies should be setting timely goals for reducing energy consumption and reliance on fossil fuels. The most popular response (45%) was that companies should be utilizing data to target the facilities and operations that use the most energy, in order to efficiently reduce their energy consumption and carbon footprint.

At the outset, we can establish a consensus that everyone can agree upon: sustainability is and should be a priority for a company. However, what consumers can see that CEOs may not be fully implementing is the importance of utilizing data to analyze and inform technological strategy.

In most scenarios, a consumer doesn’t know nearly as much about best practices for corporate sustainability as a CEO does. But in this case, the average consumer may be catching on more quickly than a CEO would expect. While CEOs have resoundingly recognized the importance of sustainability and technology in their operations, they have yet to find a way to accurately quantify the business value of their sustainability initiatives, something they’ll need to do if they want to establish the long-term viability of their programs.

Meanwhile, consumers are already recognizing that general efforts to reduce energy consumption aren’t enough – companies need to make use of the information in front of them in order to efficiently achieve their goals. While this is easier said than done, if corporate sustainability programs want to get smarter with their strategy, they need to implement what consumers are clearly demanding: more targeted use of data to make lasting organizational change.

Key takeaway: Although making sustainability and energy efficiency a priority is a good start, consumers realize that strategic utilization of energy data is more valuable than setting general goals for energy reduction or having a general awareness of a carbon footprint. Corporate America needs to get strategic and get specific.

Urjanet’s Utility Data Platform helps power sustainability programs. To learn more, download our Solutions Sheet: Utility Data for Sustainability.

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About Urjanet Inc

Urjanet, the global leader in utility data aggregation, simplifies how organizations access and use utility data, enabling them to focus on their business. Our technology collects, processes, and delivers data from over 6,500 electric, natural gas, water, waste, telecom, and cable utilities worldwide.

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