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New report: "Walking the talk?" 2019

There is still more talking than walking when it comes to sustainability in Sweden’s largest listed companies, and the companies continue to be short term in perspective. But Misum’s third “Walking the Talk?” report also shows that companies have moved sustainability higher up on the strategic agenda.

The "Walking the Talk?” 2019 report is launched today. The study analyses what our largest companies communicate: what they say that they will do, and what they say they have done in their corporate responsibility and sustainability (S/CR) work. We call this their “talk” and “walk”. The data in the study includes more than 15 600 pages.

"Communicating measurable goals in time and scope, as well as reporting progress on those goals, impacts our trust in a company’s sustainability work. Only through communicating goals and progress can external stakeholders move beyond projected corporate images to evaluating a company’s sustainability efforts,” says Lin Lerpold, Associate Professor and responsible for the report.

The report shows that companies continue to be short term in perspective. 56% of the companies either had no measurable goals or goals expiring already in 2020, a further 18% had goals ending in 2025. Though goals are communicated more often now than in our previous studies, communication on follow-up and progress made is much lower.   

More interesting findings that Lin Lerpold wants to highlight are:

"S/CR communication has continued to improve since the last study in 2017, though with a lower increase than seen between 2015 and 2017."

"The focus remains predominantly on the environment rather than on social sustainability."

"Interestingly, although sustainability is more often integrated into a company’s communicated strategies, business models and CEO statements, fewer people responsible for sustainability can be identified in the executive management teams than in the 2017 study.

"72 of the 95 companies identified which UN Sustainable Development Goals they deemed most material to them; of those, 52 companies communicated on how they actually worked with them."

Among the best in the 2019 “Walking the Talk?” study are earned by BillerudKorsnäs, Stora Enso, Sandvik, Essity, Axfood, H&M, Nordea, Astra Zeneca, Atlas Copco, Saab and Telia.

For the full list, see report.

Download the 2019 “Walking the talk?” here.

The research was conducted by Lin Lerpold, Associate Professor, together with MSc students Ylva Forsberg and Martina Kaplanová, at the Mistra Center for Sustainable Markets (Misum) at Stockholm School of Economics.

(Download 2017 “Walking the Talk?” here.)

(Download 2015 “Walking the Talk?” here.)

Questions? Please contact us:

Lin Lerpold, Associate Professor, Stockholm School of Economics, lin.lerpold@hhs.se, +46 725-76 99 42

Tinni Ernsjöö Rappe, Communication Manager, Misum, Stockholm School of Economics, tinni.rappe@hhs.se, +46 708-36 66 41

About the report


The report is based on a content analysis of publicly available annual reports, sustainability reports and homepages of the NASDAQ OMX Stockholm Large Cap companies for the year ended 2018. Thirty-two key performance indicators were coded in the qualitative software program NVivo and the data includes more than 15 600 pages. The study was conducted by Associate Professor Dr Lin Lerpold and MSc students Ylva Forsberg and Martina Kaplanová at the Mistra Center for Sustainable Markets (Misum) at Stockholm School of Economics.

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