A large majority of companies are planning to increase spending over the next 12 months on environmental sustainability initiatives across categories including energy efficiency and emissions reduction, according to a new survey released by industrial products, solutions and technologies company Honeywell, as sustainability goals continue to emerge as the top priority for executives.

While 83% of executives reported plans to increase investments in sustainability initiatives, however, this marked a decrease of recent surveys, falling from 87% last quarter and over 90% six months ago, as businesses report facing ongoing economic and geopolitical pressure.

The results were unveiled with the latest release of Honeywell’s Environmental Sustainable Index. Honeywell launched the index in Q4 2022, with updated releases planned quarterly, aimed at providing insight into how business leaders feel about the progress that’s being made toward their organizations’ sustainability commitments. For the report, produced in collaboration with Futurum Research, Honeywell surveyed more than 750 business, technology, and sustainability professionals directly involved in the planning, strategic development, implementation, or oversight of environmental sustainability goals and initiatives, at companies across multiple regions and economic sectors.

One of the most significant changes from prior reports is the increasing prioritization given by the executives to sustainability, relative to other corporate initiatives. While “Sustainability Goals” remains the most cited priority over the next 6 months at 75%, this marks a 10% increase over the past six months, and widens the gap from the #2 category, digital transformation initiatives, which remained flat over the last quarter at 56%.

Vimal Kapur, President and Chief Operating Officer of Honeywell, said:

“Our data shows that companies aren’t wavering in their commitment to sustainability. Not only are leaders keeping it at the top of the priority list despite other looming challenges, but they are also increasingly taking actions.”

While companies are facing economic and geopolitical headwinds, and slightly fewer are planning increased sustainability-related investment, only 3% actually reported plans to decrease investment levels over the next year, while 13% expect to maintain current levels, up from 11% the prior quarter.

Each of the major categories saw declines in planned investment, with 85% of executives reporting plans to increase spend on Energy Evolution & Efficiency, down from 88% the prior quarter, 81% increasing investment on Emissions reduction (85% prior), 79% increasing on Pollution Prevention (83% prior), and 82% on Circularity & Recycling (84% prior).

Despite the slight decrease in the proportion of companies planning to increase investment, however, optimism among the executives about achieving their sustainability goals over the next 12 months remains unchanged, at 76%, while respondents felt even more optimistic about achieving their 2030 sustainability objectives across each of the categories. Overall, 77% reported being optimistic about achieving their 2030 goals across all categories, compared to 75% in the prior quarter.

The report also found a continuation of the trend towards the use of technology-based solutions to achieve their sustainability targets. While process-driven changes – modifying or eliminating operational processes or business behavior – remains the top approach, reported by 43% of respondents, 26% reported that most of their goals over the next 12 months will be achieved through technology-driven approaches, up five percentage points over the past six months (and compared to 24% in the prior quarter), and 30% reporting a balanced blend of process and technology, up significantly from 17% six months ago (33% last quarter).

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

“Companies are continuing to invest in technology that helps them achieve their environmental sustainability goals. We are seeing firsthand our customers take action to achieve goals, whether it’s switching to sustainable aviation fuel, tracking and reducing carbon emissions from buildings, or increasing advanced circularity solutions, such as plastics recycling.”

Click here to access Honeywell’s 2Q 2023 Environmental Sustainability Index.

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