Research Alert

While Patagonia is known for its culture of sustainability, the outdoor clothing company is the rare exception among U.S. companies, the results of a new survey reveal. While many U.S. companies have announced sustainability plans in recent years, only 30% of managers strongly agree the plans were launched successfully to employees and embedded into their company’s DNA.

This is among the findings of a new survey among 1,046 managers in U.S. companies conducted by The Harris Poll and the University’ of Pittsburgh’s Center for Sustainable Business. The survey was based on insights in Center Director CB Bhattacharya’s book Small Actions Big Difference to better understand how companies are doing in integrating environmental and social concerns into their business models.

The full results will be announced at 4:15 p.m. this Thursday, Oct. 20  at Alumni Hall on Pitt’s campus (also available via as part of a conference to celebrate the Center’s third anniversary.

The Center, established in the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business and College of Business Administration, has been working since 2019 to help companies and students learn how to leverage investments in sustainability. 

Other survey findings include:

  • While corporate support staff (39% strongly agree) and managers (36% strongly agree) are somewhat more engaged in their company’s sustainability initiatives, the sustainability bug has yet to reach the frontlines, with only 25% strong agreement among customer support and 29% among those who make and sell products.
  • Both hearts and minds of employees need to be activated: a lack of sustainability culture (50% strongly agree) and lack of incentives (49% strongly agree) to engage in sustainability emerged as the biggest hurdles. Interestingly, 43% of managers strongly agreed their company was too short-term focused to be able to implement sustainability initiatives.   

Bhattacharya, the H.J. Zoffer Chair in Sustainability and Ethics, is available for interviews at [email protected] to discuss the findings and his recommendation of a two-prong engagement strategy to accelerate momentum:

  1. Using corporate purpose, materiality, principles of sustainability ownership and communication to engage the less engaged.
  2. Being ready for and actively addressing the increasing challenges that will be unearthed and identified by employees as engagement increases.

Other Link: The Harris Poll and the University’ of Pittsburgh’s Center for Sustainable Business