The vast majority of companies are planning to increase investments in environmental sustainability initiatives over the coming year, yet many executives lack confidence about reaching their near and mid-term sustainability goals, according to the newly launched Environmental Sustainability Index by industrial products, solutions and technologies company Honeywell.

Honeywell launched the index to provide insight into how business leaders feel about the progress that’s being made toward their organizations’ sustainability commitments. For the index, produced in collaboration with Futurum Research, Honeywell surveyed over 650 professionals directly involved in the planning, strategic development, implementation, or oversight of environmental sustainability goals and initiatives, across multiple industries and geographies. Honeywell said that it will release insights from the index quarterly.

The survey focused on the professionals’ sentiments on their organizations’ sustainability goals in four categories including energy evolution and efficiency, emissions reduction, pollution prevention and circularity/recycling.

Overall, the survey indicated that the business leaders were satisfied with the results of their recent sustainability efforts, with around 90% reporting that they were “Somewhat or Extremely Successful” with their prior 12-month goals across the four categories. Fewer carried this confidence going forward, however, with only two-thirds saying they were optimistic about achieving goals over the next 12 months, and 63% optimistic about their 2030 goals.

The lower confidence in achieving future goals was reported despite widespread plans to increase spending on sustainability initiatives. Nearly three-quarters of respondents said that their organizations plan to increase budgets for the next 12 months in all four categories, and nearly all (97%) planning to increase the budget for at least one of the categories. Many of the increases are expected to be substantial, with between 40% – 50% in each category anticipating budgets to grow by more than 20%.

The survey also examined organizations’ prioritization of environmental sustainability goals, with energy evolution and efficiency coming out the clear leader, with 73% ranking the category first or second on the priorities list, followed by emissions reduction at 46%, pollution prevention at 36% and circularity and recycling at 38%. Organizations’ priorities were reflected in their target-setting, with 80% of respondents reporting that their organizations had set internal environmental sustainability goals for energy evolution and efficiency, but fewer than half reporting the same for circularity and recycling.

Evan van Hook, Chief Sustainability Officer of Honeywell, said:

“It is promising to see energy evolution and efficiency high on ESG managers’ agendas. This is an area that often results in the highest ROI, because the more efficient your operations, the less you pay in energy costs.”

In terms of the approaches organizations are expected to take in pursuing their sustainability goals, the survey found that 62% expect to achieve their targets for the next year primarily by modifying or eliminating operational processes or business behaviors, with only 16% relying primarily on technology-based changes including upgrading or replacing existing technologies and systems with newer, more efficient or more sustainable technologies.

Van Hook added:

“When it comes to making progress, the market is bifurcated. On one hand, you have companies that need help kickstarting their sustainability journey, and others that have relied on process changes and now need deep expertise in how to attack tougher problems. No matter companies’ maturity, the real opportunity lies in leapfrogging into a technology-driven approach to sustainability. This will help make faster progress.”

Click here to access Honeywell’s Environmental Sustainability Index.

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