According to a recent survey of CEOs and senior executives by Gartner, 69% of them view sustainability as a leading business growth opportunity in 2024.

“As CEOs reset their long-term strategies, environmental sustainability remains one of the leading factors that will frame competition,” says Kristin Moyer, distinguished VP analyst at Gartner. “Despite much corporate greenwash, recent economic conditions could have triggered a reversion to environmental, social and governance (ESG) cynicism and a refocus on profit at all costs. However, the overall commitment of CEOs appears unwavering.

“Sustainability consistently remains a top 10 business priority, surpassing even productivity and efficiency this year,” continues Moyer. “Leaders and investors know environmentally cavalier corporate behaviour is a mid- to long-term risk to business results – with a big price to be paid when environmental factors are ignored as externalities.

“However, smart CEOs realise big sustainability challenges create new areas of business opportunity,” Moyers adds.

According to the annual survey, the leading ways CEOs are using sustainability to drive business growth are through sustainable products and services (33%); sustainable business practices (18%); stakeholder engagement (18%); and decarbonisation (18%). Digital investments and innovation is ranked ninth at 8%.

“Digital technology can accelerate progress toward sustainability goals, going beyond compliance to help enterprises reach targets, enable new business models, and unleash revenue streams,” says Moyer.

According to Gartner, digital technology plays an important role in driving both financial and sustainability outcomes. For example, the Internet of Things (IoT), data, and analytics can optimise wind turbines which reduces costs and greenhouse gas emissions. AI and IoT can reduce food loss costs and waste – whereas a circular economy marketplace can create new revenue and reduce waste.

The Gartner survey reveals that 54% of CEOs say their businesses are affected by changing weather patterns – at least moderately. Over half (51%) acknowledge changing weather patterns are causing them to plan changes to the way they operate or have already done so.

“CEOs see that climate change is causing weather pattern shifts that are directly impacting their business operations already,” says Moyer. “Those operations must be adapted – with technology playing a vital role in driving these changes, especially in the dynamics of supply chains.”

The survey reveals the biggest impact of changing weather patterns cited by CEOs is operating dynamics (30%) – particularly changes to logistics such as warehousing, timing, and routing of deliveries. Relocations (including nearshoring) comes in second (14%), followed by automation, technology and data (13%).