Business executives see increasing demand for corporate and environmental responsibility programs, and say these programs can actually be profitable, according to a new survey.

Seventy-seven percent of the 500 business executives surveyed by accounting firm Grant Thornton expect corporate responsibility initiatives to have a major impact on their business strategies over the next several years. Three-quarters of the survey respondents also think corporate responsibility programs can enhance profitability at their companies.

Indeed, 68 percent of the surveyed business executives expect environmental responsibility reporting to become mandatory within the next three to five years. However, 55 percent of them do not plan to do any corporate responsibility reporting. The survey also found that 72 percent of the business executives polled believe that government should regulate companies for their effect on the environment, while 56 percent said companies should be regulated for their effect on human rights and labor practices.

Companies are predicted to feel the heat from a couple of different sources. Sixty-two percent of the survey respondents believe that pressure to pursue corporate responsibility programs will come mainly from consumers and investors. Accountants can play a role in these programs, with 57 percent of the respondents saying the finance department should be responsible for economic responsibility programs.

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