Findings from the 2022 Sustainability Leaders survey reinforce the continued rise in urgency around climate change, and show sustainability leadership is increasingly being measured by evidence of action, impact, and above all the integration of sustainability into business strategy.
The survey, which questioned more than 700 sustainability professionals across 73 countries in March and April 2022, reveals a significant evolution in the way companies are assessed on their sustainability leadership.
The corporate leaders remain relatively consistent compared to last year, with Unilever and Patagonia maintaining the top positions. Notably, Microsoft made the top five for the first time. Like last year, delving into regional leadership provides a more diverse list of company names. Reflecting the same pattern as in recent years, World Wildlife Fund tops the NGO leader list again in 2022, followed by Greenpeace. World Resources Institute maintains its position in third place.
When asked what characteristics leading companies and NGOs demonstrate, a common theme emerges. Respondents increasingly recognize institutional actors, including both corporations and NGOs, for their actions and not just for their words and aspirations. Survey respondents less frequently mention ambitious targets and commitments, impressive ambitions, or high-profile executive leadership as drivers of recognized sustainability leadership. Companies are mostly considered leaders for putting sustainability at the core of their business models and strategies as well as increasingly for demonstrating real results. Similarly for NGOs, experts cite collaboration and stakeholder engagement as the main reasons that the NGOs on our list are named as leaders.
Just as the pandemic begins to feel more under control, a new disruption hit the world in 2022. The war in Ukraine has been another reminder of the volatile and uncertain world we live in, reinforcing the importance of resilient supply chains, as well as raising questions around energy transition, food security, and the effects of shifting political orders. We asked experts what they believe will be the most likely short- and longterm impacts of the war on the sustainability agenda. Although many experts believe that focus might shift away from sustainability in the short term, many also believe that the war will
encourage the transition to renewable energy in the long term.