Net Impact Students Add Their Voices to Industry Sustainability Study

By: Linda Gerard | November 6, 2014

Featuring Net Impact student perspectives, our new industry study launched in partnership with Globescan and BSR (Business for Social Responsibility). The research reveals how current and future leaders view the state of sustainable business, including notable similarities, differences, and emerging trends.  To learn more, see highlights below, or click here to see the full report.

Highlights from Research Findings

State of Sustainable Business -- Perspectives from Current and Future Sustainability Leaders

For the past six years, GlobeScan has partnered with BSR in conducting the annual State of Sustainable Business survey. This survey gleans insights from professionals within BSR member organizations on emerging trends, priorities, and practices across a range of environmental, social, and governance issues. In 2014, for the first time, some of the survey questions were extended to undergraduate and MBA members of Net Impact. The goal was to measure the ways that current and future sustainability leaders view these issues.

Integration of sustainability into core business functions is key

Both current and future leaders believe the most significant leadership challenge facing business today is the integration of sustainability into core business operations. “The challenge of integrating sustainability into core business functions has consistently been the top challenge highlighted by current leaders in our tracking. To see that future leaders also clearly recognize this critical challenge is welcome,” says GlobeScan Director, James Morris. “Integrating sustainability into the core of the business is a challenge that future leaders will need to take up.”

There is enormous potential to improve business transparency

While both current and future sustainability leaders generally rate business as low on transparency, future leaders have a lower perception of business transparency in general. Net Impact students were notably more likely to say that business is characterized by a lack of transparency than BSR members (31% vs. 20%). “We believe that increased transparency is an essential solution for building trust in business,” says BSR CEO Aron Cramer.

Climate change will continue to be a top priority for sustainability leaders, but new priorities may surface as more millennials move into the workplace

Since 2009, professionals from BSR have consistently highlighted human rights, workers’ rights, and climate change as the highest priority issues for their companies’ sustainability efforts for the next 12-momths. Like BSR current leaders, Net Impact future leaders agreed that climate change is a top priority issue. However, Net Impact students, who were asked to rate what should be the highest priorities for business, also ranked sustainable consumption and water issues as their burning issues of importance.

Next generation leaders have high expectations for business in addressing sustainability issues, especially regarding consumption. “I am drawn to brands with a story. If businesses don’t have values that resonate with me, they are unable to provide me both reason and reward for their products,” says Kelsey Moyes, a college student member of Net Impact. These results underscore the imperative for companies to enable consumers to be more sustainable in their purchasing choices. 

As Net Impact students graduate into sustainability positions within business, they will have greater power and capacity to promote these priorities and effect change within their organizations – with the help of current leaders like those from BSR and professional Net Impact members. Regardless of how priorities shift over the coming years, members from these two organizations hold significant promise for sustainable business, as their leadership will guide business through some of the most significant challenges yet to come.

Together, we make a net impact that transforms our lives, our organizations, and the world. 

Download report

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