A group called the Social Investment Forum issued a report earlier this year showing a more than 33% increase in the number of leading publicly traded US companies reporting on their sustainability initiatives. Specifically, 66 of the firms in the S&P 100 in 2008 issued a formal sustainability report with performance data, compared with 49 companies producing such a report in 2007.

These data are not isolated. Recently the IBM Institute for Business Value released its latest corporate social responsibility (CSR) study, Leading a Sustainable Enterprise. In a 2009 survey of 224 business leaders worldwide, IBM found:

  • 60% believe CSR has increased in importance from the previous year;
  • More than two-thirds of the organizations surveyed include CSR as part of an integrated business strategy to grow new revenue streams and control costs;
  • 87% focus on CSR for efficiency, while 69% focus on it for growth;
  • Only 30% collect CSR-related data internally or from suppliers; and
  • Only 35% believe they have a sound understanding of their customers' CSR expectations.

You can download the study, as well as one from 2008 for comparison.

Both reports mirror what we at Petfood Industry found in a survey of our audience: that more and more organizations and business professionals deem sustainability important and are focusing efforts toward it, but gaps remain in making it a truly effective strategy or program for business growth and success.

You'll see a full report from our survey, conducted in February and March, online soon on the all-new PetfoodIndustry.com and in the July issue of the magazine. Meanwhile, here are some key findings:

  • A majority of respondents (62%) think consumer demand is the driver for adopting sustainable and "green" practices, while 58% believe their organizations are following such practices because it's the right thing to do;
  • 77% believe consumers define "green" petfoods as having natural ingredients, with 60% believing consumers see recyclable packaging as the definition;
  • Energy conservation is cited by 55% of respondents as the practice that has delivered return on investment (ROI); and
  • Just one-third say they are required to report sustainability measures to shareholders, regulatory bodies, retailers or other stakeholders.

While most specific sustainable practices-for example, retrofitting facilities, substituting renewable materials, changing supply chain structure-fall into the "has potential to deliver" rather than the "already has delivered" ROI column for respondents, some of the practices score high in terms of potential. Production systems, for instance, are chosen by 75%.

What I find most encouraging is that 77% of respondents believe it's very or somewhat important for their organizations to be leaders in adopting sustainable practices, and 68% think it's very or somewhat likely that increased sustainability will lead to rising long-term profits for their companies.

So, petfood leaders view sustainability very similarly to how leaders of other businesses and industries do. Perhaps our industry could even pave the way to a more sustainable and profitable future?

Find more
See other examples of sustainability in petfood