London — Dec. 7
As businesses continue to feel the pinch from tough economic conditions, the next generation of business leaders said in a new study that sustainability must be a priority for all businesses.
“The Sustainable Generation: The Sky Future Leaders Study” examines the attitudes and ambitions toward sustainability of 750 corporate graduate trainees, high potential middle-managers and MBA students. It uncovers a group who readily describe themselves as the first “sustainable generation” and who have a clear vision for their own careers.
Having grown up with issues like environmental protection and social responsibility as a constant feature in their lives, tomorrow’s business leaders are knowledgeable about sustainability and confident in what they will do in the future to address it, according to the study.
They also send a clear message to HR directors about the importance of sustainability credentials to their own career plans. Thirty-four percent of respondents see creating social and environmental value as an overall career goal, just 1 percentage point behind earning personal financial rewards.
The sustainable generation is clear that there is a strong business case for addressing social and environmental issues, the study said. Seventy percent agree that sustainability can create new opportunities for business, while 66 percent believe difficult economic conditions should not be an excuse for businesses to ignore sustainability.
But sustainability is still not being fully integrated into the way the businesses operate. While 78 percent of future leaders believe U.K. businesses are making a genuine effort to do so, just 3 percent believe they are fully succeeding.
The gap between words and actions is underlined by future leaders’ responses to businesses that claim to have a social purpose beyond creating profit to improve their reputation. Just 27 percent of tomorrow’s business leaders think companies make such claims because they genuinely believe them to be true, according to the study.
The report raises questions as to the quality and quantity of sustainability training provided by business schools and businesses. Thirty-five percent of future leaders do not believe their employers are providing adequate levels of training or education on sustainability, the study said.
The report presented the results of research undertaken by Sky, a multichannel, multi-platform television service, to determine the attitudes and aspirations of the U.K.’s next generation of business leaders toward sustainability. The study is based on research undertaken by market research agency Populus, which interviewed 751 graduate trainees, current and recently graduated MBA students and high-potential middle managers earmarked for leadership positions.