68% of U.S. execs admit their companies are guilty of greenwashing

How can more than 80 percent of CEOs think they are in the top half on sustainability? And admit to greenwashing and not understanding sustainability?

In a new survey of 1,491 executives across different industries around the world, CEOs and other C-suite leaders said that sustainability was a priority. But 58% also admitted that their companies were guilty of greenwashing; among leaders in the U.S., that figure rose to 68%.

And two-thirds of executives globally questioned whether their company’s sustainability efforts were genuine.

The anonymous survey, conducted by the Harris Poll for Google Cloud with executives primarily at companies with more than 500 employees, has mixed messages: 80% of executives gave their companies an “above-average” rating for environmental sustainability. The majority of leaders both at large corporations and startups said that sustainability is a priority for them; 93% said that they’d be willing to tie their compensation to ESG (environmental, social, and governance) goals, or already do. But 65% said that while they wanted to make progress on sustainability efforts, they didn’t actually know how to do that.

Measuring progress is one challenge—only 36% of executives said that their companies had measurement tools in place to track their sustainability efforts. (Google Cloud, which builds some of those tools itself, did the survey in part to better understand what its customers need.) Only 17% of respondents said that they’re using data from measurement tools to optimize their sustainability strategies. That’s likely to change as regulations do, at least for climate-related data. In the U.S., a proposed SEC rule would make it mandatory for companies to report climate emissions, along with their climate risk, for the first time. The U.K. already has a similar new requirement in place.

68% of U.S. execs admit their companies are guilty of greenwashing

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