Brand Management Versus Value Creation

UK organizations are behind the curve when it comes to embedding sustainability across business strategy.


UK Insights Introduction     All Local Insights     Global Insights


Sustainability is a defining issue of our time. How ready are UK businesses—and their leaders—to advance this agenda?

In our study, just 32% of UK C-suite leaders say they have a sustainability strategy that has been acted on and clearly communicated—behind the global average (43%).


Existence of sustainability strategies (UK)

Percent indicating there is a sustainability strategy in place that has been acted upon and clearly communicated

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And only 25% expect to make a great deal of progress/significant progress towards embedding sustainability across business strategy in the next five years, compared to 39% globally.


C-suite perception of anticipated progress of sustainability strategies (UK)

Five-year outlook

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The lack of perceived headway could be an indication that UK organizations hold themselves to a higher bar of success than their global counterparts. Many executives tell us that they want to get sustainability right and are spending time up-front to develop workable strategies, engaging stakeholders and securing buy-in.

Yet there is also evidence that many UK organizations are still at the early stages of their commitment to sustainability. Just 48% of UK C-suite leaders say their CEO is personally committed to advancing sustainability and organizational progress has been made. 

Across the 11 markets we surveyed, UK C-suite leaders are also the most likely to say that their sustainability efforts are driven by brand-management concerns—51% say they want to be viewed as socially responsible and reputable or use sustainability for competitive differentiation. Far fewer are motivated by value creation (20%), impact reduction (20%) and risk avoidance (9%).

C-suite perceptions of the driving force behind their company’s approach to sustainability (UK)

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If sustainability is really important to you and your organization, then you have to put it right at the heart of your strategy. It has to be woven through everything that you do.

Jon Stanton
CEO, The Weir Group


Sustainability has emerged as a critical growth lever that will drive business success over the next decade. Organizations that perceive sustainability only as a brand issue to be managed are unlikely to embed the transformational changes that will unlock growth. Our global research shows that when value creation is the driving force behind a company’s approach to sustainability, much more progress is anticipated in fully embedding sustainability in the company’s strategy and operations.

Anticipated progress by driving force of sustainability strategy (Global)

Percent indicating great deal or significant progress

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Surface-level commitments are not enough; pledges must be underpinned by credible and compelling strategies for change. If frameworks for action are missing, leaders should prepare to face greenwashing accusations. With the Competition and Markets Authority recently announcing that it would carry out a full review of misleading green claims in 2022, the reputational risks of empty promises are significant.


Action Items

  • Audit where your organization is in the sustainability lifecycle, with a specific focus on distinguishing between surface-level or short-term actions and deep investments in changing organizational operating procedures and business models.

  • Ensure the board and executive team sign off on a credible sustainability strategy that sets out the areas of your organization that will undergo transformation, including business and operating models, leadership frameworks and culture. 

  • Determine the level of understanding of, and buy-in, for your sustainability strategy across multiple levels within the organization. Leverage areas of skepticism as opportunities to sharpen your plans.



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