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MISSION:INTANGIBLE, the blog of the Intangible Asset Finance Society, offers critical comments on intangible asset, corporate reputation, and finance; supplemented by quantitative reputation metrics. Intangible assets include business processes, patents, trademarks; reputations for ethics and integrity; quality, safety, sustainability, security, and resilience; and comprise 70% of the average company's value. MISSION:INTANGIBLE is a registered trademark of the Intangible Asset Finance Society.

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Lighter shade of green

Nir Kossovsky - Wednesday, November 04, 2009
In the Society’s pantheon of intangible assets that create enterprise value, one has defied efforts to build for it a universally compelling business case. Sustainability, unlike ethics, innovation, quality, safety and security, is not a practice that in our experience reliably has created enterprise value for its practitioners. Further, if one subscribes to the theory that there is wisdom in crowds, than the murkiness surrounding the value of sustainability persists. This is why. According to a recent survey of 1,400 CFOs from a stratified random sample of U.S. companies with 20 or more employees, two-thirds of CFOs don't expect to boost sustainability efforts in next 12 months.

When asked whether they expect their companies’ emphasis on green initiatives to increase, decrease or remain the same in the next 12 months, 68 percent of chief financial officers (CFOs) interviewed said they anticipate no changes. More than a quarter (28 percent), however, said they expect an increased focus on the issue.

When we first saw this report, we assumed that those expecting to increase their focus would be companies that distributed product through Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT). More generally, we expected retailers and and their supply chains would be investing in green to conform with Wal-Mart’s sustainability requirements – or at least remain competitive.

We were not wrong. Looking horizontally at the data, while overall 28% expected to increase investments, 33% of the CFOs from companies in the retail sector expected to do so. Furthermore, while overall 5.15% expected to increase investments significantly, 6.3% of the CFOs from the retail sector were gearing up for bigger green initiatives.

However, we were surprised by some of the findings. First, the sector from which a plurality of CFOs expected to increase investments the most was finance – nearly 36%. At the other end of the spectrum was transportation – only 19%. However, nearly half of those in the transportation sector expected to make significant increases.

Growth and/or maintaining the status quo were not on everyone’s agenda. Sectors planning to cutback, according to the CFOs surveyed, include business services, construction and – ready for this – retail at 5.2, 4.8, and 3.8% respectively.

The survey was developed by Robert Half Management Resources.

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