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Research spots trend toward globally managed sustainability programs

A new Economist Intelligence Unit study, "Sustainability Across Borders" explores leading organisations’ preferences for addressing sustainability through global or regional approaches. Sponsored by business analytics leader SAS, the research was based on an online survey of 226 senior executives worldwide and interviews with companies including Cisco, HSBC, Lenovo, Vodafone and World Wildlife Fund.

“Global companies are taking corporate social responsibility seriously and improving performance tracking and reporting,” said Alyssa Farrell, Marketing Manager for Sustainability Solutions at SAS. “As we transition from voluntary to mandatory emissions reductions, the question becomes, ‘How do we integrate sustainability with global operations?’” Findings suggest that aligning sustainability governance with financial forces that affect revenues may be the answer.

The research identifies a trend toward globally focused sustainability programs. Sixty percent of companies currently emphasising regional sustainability management reported plans to incorporate a global view. However, according to a Cisco case study in the report, even a global vision must first address local realities to succeed. Unique challenges for acceptance and implementation with each approach lead to different perceptions of success and competitive advantage.

Cisco, which recently set a corporate goal of reducing absolute worldwide greenhouse gas emissions 25% by 2012, has signed a multi-year agreement to expand their use of SAS for Sustainability Management globally. In addition to helping meet their own carbon reduction goals, Cisco expects customers to benefit greatly through an enhanced ability to model and predict energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions.

“Cisco is working with SAS to deploy a model of 21st-century, network-based environmental accounting and analytics,” said Laura Ipsen, co-chair of Cisco’s EcoBoard and senior vice president of Cisco Global Policy and Government Affairs. “This intelligent, Internet protocol-enabled system will allow us to better monitor and manage our greenhouse gas emissions around the world. It will also enable us to demonstrate to customers how networking technology can help them meet their own environmental and operational goals, especially as organisations strive to maximise the value of their IT investment.”

The research also evaluated approaches to sustainability in developed and developing countries, where different stakeholder influences significantly affect global program development. Company approaches to sustainability in different countries depend on how best to align social and environmental goals with economic ones.

SAS helps organisations resolve a common barrier to global expansion of sustainability programs: difficulty gathering and monitoring worldwide data. SAS for Sustainability Management integrates individual technology components into a single, unified system that transcends organisational silos, diverse computing platforms and niche tools – and delivers new insights that drive value for organisations.

SAS turnkey solutions for vertical markets address financial services, life sciences, healthcare, retail, manufacturing and others. SAS targeted business solutions support enterprise intelligence, customer intelligence, financial intelligence, supply chain intelligence and more.

Today’s announcement came at The Premier Business Leadership Seriesevent in Las Vegas, a business conference presented by SAS that brings together more than 500 attendees from the public and private sectors to share ideas on critical business issues.