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Will Sustainability Efforts Get a Boost from the COVID-19 Crisis? Opinions Are Sharply Divided

Respondents from two different surveys—one comprising general counsel, corporate secretaries, and investor relations executives at more than 230 US public companies, the other comprising more than 40 sustainability executives in the US—have very different opinions on the impact that COVID-19 will have on corporate sustainability programs (defined as initiatives designed to promote the long-term welfare of the company, multiple stakeholders, society at large, and the environment). Three out of 10 sustainability executives expect the current health crisis to increase emphasis on their environmental and social efforts—but only 1 in 10 of their fellow governance executives agree.

There may be a number of drivers here: executives may have divergent views of the meaning of the term “sustainability”; they may also have different views of their own company’s sustainability programs, and they may have different takes on the breadth and depth of COVID-19’s impact.

This divergence of opinions reveals companies need to reach an internal consensus on the crisis’s impact on their sustainability programs, and be prepared to communicate it in a coherent, cohesive, and consistent manner.

For more insights from the surveys, see: Refocusing Sustainability during COVID-19 and Corporate Governance Challenges in the COVID-19 Crisis: Findings from a Survey of US Public Companies.

For more on the intersection of sustainability and COVID-19, see: Five Ways a Sustainability Strategy Provides Clarity in a Time of Crisis.

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Our Experts

Thought leaders who provide trusted insights for navigating companies and the economy though COVID-19.


Bart van Ark

Executive Vice President & Global Chief Economist; Program Director, CFO: Fortune 250 Council


Lynn Franco

Director, Economic Indicators and Surveys


Ataman Ozyildirim, PhD

Director, Economic Research, and Global Research Chair


Matteo Tonello

Managing Director, Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG)


Gad Levanon, PhD

Vice President, Labor Markets


David Hoffman

Senior Vice President Asia and Managing Director of the China Center for Economics & Business


Rebecca L. Ray, PhD

Executive Vice President, Human Capital

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Anke Schrader

Senior Researcher


Amy Lui Abel, PhD

Vice President, Human Capital Research


Thomas Singer

Principal Researcher


Dr. Uwe G. Schulte

Leader, Global Sustainability Centre and Program Director


Paul Washington

Executive Director, ESG Center


Ilaria Maselli

Senior Economist


Amanda Popiela

Researcher, Human Capital


Elizabeth Crofoot

Senior Economist, Labor Markets


John Forsyth

Leader of the Consumer Dynamics Institute


Cindy Cisneros

Vice President of Education Programs

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Steve Odland

President and CEO


Jeff Hoffman

Institute Leader, Corporate Citizenship & Philanthropy, ESG Center


Joseph J. Minarik

Senior Vice President and Director of Research


Erik Lundh

Senior Economist


Robin Erickson, PhD

Principal Researcher


JP Kuehlwein

Marketing Institute Leader


Denise Dahlhoff, PhD

Senior Researcher, Consumer Research

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Laura Sabattini, Ph.D.

Principal Researcher, Human Capital

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Robert Schwarz

Senior Researcher, ESG Center

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Chiqui Cartagena

Chief Marketing Officer & Center Leader, Marketing & Communications

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Dr. Mahdy Al Jazzaf

Executive Director


Devin O’Connor

Deputy Director, Economic Research



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