Executives say they are committed to ESG, but data shows otherwise

about the past For several years, environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives have taken the business world by storm. The end result was no longer all that mattered. Clients and investors alike wanted to know how companies were addressing a range of ESG issues, from climate change to diversity, equity and inclusion.

More recently, the model has come under increasing criticism. Political attacks on ESG principles combined with shaky macroeconomic conditions, a stronger earnings boost on growth and an energy crisis in Europe gave some companies cover to cut their pledges, especially if they were not fully committed from the outset.

To be clear, many companies are taking big steps to reduce their carbon pollution, an effort that falls under the broader umbrella of ESG considerations. That could include using cleaner energy sources for manufacturing, greener packaging for consumer goods, or selecting cloud providers that strive to run data centers more energy-efficiently.

Regardless of how companies approach becoming a greener organization, the question is whether they stay true to their promises, especially when economic conditions tighten. For some, ESG commitments are more about appearances than action. Unfortunately, the Google Cloud Sustainability Survey 2023 suggests that executive resolve is waning. That, or those who were only in it for the commercialization benefit are starting to clear up.

As proof, the survey found that this year, economic pressures have pushed ESG concerns to third on organizations’ priority lists, from the top spot they held last year. “Many executives point to the macroeconomic environment and third-party pressure to cut corners on their sustainability initiatives and prioritize customer relationships and revenue generation,” the report states.

Google commissioned The Harris Poll to survey 1,476 VP and C-suite executives from around the world in a variety of industry sectors. The report found that the number of sustainability projects being implemented, as opposed to simply planned, dropped by 8% from last year.


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