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LONDON – Marks & Spencer and Patagonia are the only clothing retailers among the top five ranked businesses in a survey of more than 700 global sustainability leaders. The number one business in the GlobeScan/SustainAbility Leaders Survey was Unilever, while Walmart and IKEA were also highly placed. The survey is the longest-running of its kind and has tracked expert opinions on sustainable development leadership for more than 20 years.

Many surveys of this nature throw up surprising results which don’t always – in our view – reflect the reality on the ground. However, in this case, we feel the ranking of Marks & Spencer and Patagonia is well deserved. Both have been genuine leaders on sustainability for more than a decade, M&S with its pioneering Plan A initiative and Patagonia for its far reaching work fostering community activism on sustainability and environmental issues.

For the eighth year running, Unilever was ranked as the leading global corporate sustainability leader in the report, receiving close to half the total mentions by experts. Patagonia and Interface occupy the second and third positions in the ranking as they did in 2017, after which IKEA, Marks & Spencer, Tesla, Nestlé, Natura, Danone, Apple and Walmart round out the list of highest-ranked companies.

This year’s survey revealed that integrating sustainability values, making sustainability part of the core business model and committed executive leadership are the key characteristics recognised by expert respondents as defining corporate leadership.

Among NGOs, WWF and Greenpeace retain their dominant positions as the two most widely recognised NGOs. They are perceived even more positively by younger experts aged 18-35, which may harbour well for their enduring future strength.

For the first time in 2018, expert respondents were asked to assess how well leading companies perform against five key leadership attributes – Purpose, Plan, Culture, Collaboration and Advocacy – as defined in detail in a new book, All In: The Future of Business Leadership, written by GlobeScan co-CEO Chris Coulter and SustainAbility executive director Mark Lee with David Grayson of the Cranfield School of Management.

NGOs and social entrepreneurs are seen to have contributed the most to advancing the sustainable development agenda. The performance of governments and international financial institutions is seen as poor, while experts are divided on the performance of the private sector.

Full survey at: https://globescan.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/GlobeScan-SustainAbility-Leaders-Survey-2018-Report.pdf

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