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Deloitte Survey and White Paper Highlight the Growing Role of the Board in Corporate Responsibility, Sustainability and Climate Change

Published 03-02-09

Submitted by Deloitte

NEW YORK, NY. - March 2, 2009 - Boards of directors are increasingly paying attention to the risks and opportunities associated with corporate responsibility, sustainability and climate change, according to a survey commissioned and released today by Deloitte and Corporate Board Member magazine. The survey of 220 directors at U.S. companies with $1 billion or more in revenue highlights the board's growing role in oversight of corporate responsibility and sustainability (CR&S).

"The perfect storm of emerging regulations, increased requirements for reporting and transparency, heightened pressure from investors, energy price volatility and market demands for green products and technologies is driving CR&S as a business imperative," said Eric Hespenheide of Deloitte's Enterprise Sustainability group. "Despite the current economic environment the board's role is undoubtedly increasing as there is greater awareness of the business risks and opportunities associated with corporate responsibility, sustainability and climate change."

Key findings from the survey include:

  • Seventy-nine percent of directors responding have a strong or moderate understanding of the business risks associated with CR&S and climate change.

  • Seventy-six percent have a strong or moderate understanding of the business opportunities associated with CR&S and climate change.

  • Almost one-half of directors think their boards and management are committed to addressing CR&S and climate change.

  • One-half of directors think their companies’ response to CR&S is integrated into business strategy and risk management, while 41 percent report no such integration.
"CR&S is not just about philanthropy or going green - it is about managing risk, generating value and ensuring the long-term viability of an enterprise," added Hespenheide. "It includes consideration of the interdependencies between environmental, social and financial performance, including new views on regulation, accountability, transparency, corporate governance and the potential impacts of climate change on business operations. These are all issues that fall under the board's purview."

Additional key findings include:
  • Thirty percent of directors reported that their companies have set goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions; fifty nine percent reported no such commitment.

  • Almost one-third of directors think there is growing investor interest in their companies’ response to climate change/business sustainability issues, while 39 percent do not think there is growing interest.

  • Thirty-five percent of directors see value in having an environmental audit - measuring greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption.

  • Thirty-seven percent of directors favor full-board oversight of CR&S, while another 37 percent indicated oversight should reside in existing board committees, such as risk committees (24 percent), governance committees (24 percent), strategy committees (22 percent) and audit committees (15 percent).
"These results prove that directors need and want to be engaged on climate change issues and that many of them are getting up to speed," said Mindy Lubber, president of Ceres and advisor to the survey. "Smart directors will catch the wave of climate opportunities, while others get dragged down in the undertow of unidentified risk." 

"Investors filed a record number of CR&S and climate change"“related shareholder resolutions in 2008 and we expect that trend to continue upward," added Chris Park of Deloitte's Enterprise Sustainability group. "Increasingly, institutional and individual shareholders want to know not only if leadership is prepared to manage risks associated with emerging regulations and increased reporting requirements on environmental and social performance. They also want more insight into leadership’s strategy for capitalizing on the CR&S opportunities that will create long-term shareholder value."

For in-depth information on the board's role in CR&S please view "The Responsible and Sustainable Board" white paper, which can be found here:

About the Survey

The Director Corporate Responsibility, Sustainability and Climate Change Survey was conducted via email in August 2008 and generated 220 director responses from American companies with $1 billion or more in revenues. The survey was conducted for Deloitte by Corporate Board Member magazine's Director Research Panel. Ceres, the largest coalition of investors, companies and environmental organizations on climate change and other sustainability issues, was an advisor on the project.

About Deloitte

"¨As used in this document, "Deloitte" means Deloitte LLP and Deloitte Services LP, a subsidiary of Deloitte LLP. Please see for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries.

About Ceres"¨

Ceres is a leading coalition of investors, environmental groups and other public interest groups working with companies to address sustainability challenges such as global climate change. Ceres directs the Investor Network on Climate Risk, a network of 75 institutional investors and financial firms with collective assets totaling nearly $7 trillion focused on the business impacts of climate change.

About Corporate Board Member

"¨Corporate Board Member is a leading information resource for senior officers and directors of publicly traded corporations, large private companies, and Global 1000 firms. The bimonthly publication provides readers with decision-making tools to deal with the corporate governance challenges confronting their boards. Corporate Board Member further extends its governance leadership through an online resource center, conferences, roundtables, and timely research. The magazine maintains the most comprehensive, up-to-date database of directors and officers serving on boards of publicly traded companies listed with the New York Stock Exchange, NASDAQ Stock Market, and American Stock Exchange. Headquartered in Brentwood, Tennessee, with editorial offices in New York, Corporate Board Member is published by Board Member Inc. and is the sister publication of Bank Director magazine, a leading information resource for officers and directors of financial institutions. For more information, visit

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As used in this profile, "Deloitte" means Deloitte LLP. Please see for a detailed description of the legal structure of Deloitte LLP and its subsidiaries.

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