Environmental management has progressed from a green option to a strategic asset for companies, largely driven by consumers voicing their preference for sustainable products.

These results emerged from a survey of more than 1,700 professionals worldwide conducted by the certification body DNV GL, with the support of international research institute GFK Eurisko, to detect companies’ approach to environmental management.

The results of the 2017 survey were compared to the findings from a similar survey conducted in 2014 to detect changes in trends.

The survey shows that the customer’s voice matters. Requests from customers (50%) were the driving force that increased the most in the 2017 survey, up 15% from 2014 and the second most important driver, only surpassed by compliance with laws and regulations (77%). The push from other stakeholders is felt, as reported by 25% of the respondents – up 10% from the previous survey.

Companies are still facing more or less the same challenges as they did three years ago, and the top risks are related to waste management and more particularly the disposal of waste (55%), handling of hazardous materials (44%) and discharge of waste water (36%).

Of the companies surveyed, 74% state that environmental management is relevant for their overarching business strategy, and 45% say their company will increase investments in environmental management going forward, up almost 10% compared to the former survey.

Worldwide, 96% of companies carried out at least one action to evaluate or mitigate environmental risks in 2017. Monitoring the process for checking compliance with legal requirements (73%), carrying out regular maintenance to minimize environmental impacts (70%) and conducting ongoing assessments of impacts (65%) were the main initiatives undertaken.

While there is a growing focus on own operations, only one in three businesses has a supplier environmental management programme, a lower number than expected since the focus on suppliers is a crucial aspect for external stakeholders.

Luca Crisciotti, CEO of DNV GL – Business Assurance, comments: “It is encouraging to see that companies are on a positive trend when it comes to environmental management. But there is still an upside when it comes to the wider supplier network. And, like consumer power, companies should acknowledge the influence they have on their suppliers to improve sustainability in the wider supply chain.”

A decrease in the number of environmental accidents was listed as the primary benefit achieved by environmental management efforts, stated by 52% of the respondents. Improved relations with authorities (48%), financial savings (40%) and competitive advantages (36%) followed next. About 80% of the companies surveyed believe that an environmental management system based on the international ISO 14001 standard and third-party certification adds value. It is particularly considered an aid for meeting legal requirements (77%) and improving performance (72%).

Picture: Luca Crisciotti, CEO of DNV GL – Business Assurance.


The survey was conducted in March 2017. It involved 1,709 professionals who work at companies in the primary, secondary and tertiary sectors across different industries in Europe, North America, Central & South America and Asia. The sample consists of DNV GL’s customers and is not statistically representative of companies worldwide:23% of the firms involved employ fewer than 50 people, while 54% employ 50-1,000 people and 23% employ 1,000 or more;
5% of the companies are from the primary sector, 59% from the secondary sector and 36% from the tertiary sector. The sample includes 274 companies defined as “leaders”. Classification in the leaders category was based on the company meeting a group of prerequisites specifically defined by DNV GL: the company has undertaken at least one action to evaluate or mitigate the identified risks and is able to rate the overall cost benefit/ratio of the initiative implemented; environmental issues are very relevant in the company’s overall business strategy; and, when self-assessing maturity, the company claims to be a “leading” or “building” business in environmental management.