Asked to rank the driving factors behind sustainability strategies on a 10-point scale, with 10 being the most prominent, respondents ranked perception at 7.1, higher than the 6 revenue growth scored. Increasing pollution control got a 6.6 and meeting social needs a 5.28.
Companies are turning attention to sustainability communications as the public becomes savvier on the issue, said Johanna Mouton, executive director of Pinnacle Worldwide.
Just under half (49%) of the companies contacted have an annual allocation of less than $50,000 for sustainability-related communications, while 10% designate $50,000 to $500,000, and less than 3% spend more than $500,000.
"Organizations do realize that it is an important topic that needs to be addressed," Mouton said.
Only 6% of respondents characterized their companies as "recognized leaders" in sustainability, and 65% said their organizations do not have a dedicated sustainability staff.
Sustainability offers agencies unique opportunities, noted John Osthus, Vandiver Group sustainability practice lead.
"As sustainability becomes more important to corporations, the stakeholders [PR pros] work with are changing," he said. "We see this as raising [many] new opportunities... to [help] corporations with strategy."
Researchers contacted 338 respondents, mostly CEOs, in 25 countries and 40 industries from April 15 to May 5. Of the companies that reported, 18% had revenues from $10 million to $100 million, while 9% revealed revenues of $100 million to $1 billion, and 13% said they had revenues of more than $1 billion.