Two thirds of CEOs of Indian companies say that sustainability is very important to the future success of their business, but less than half (44 percent) think business is making sufficient efforts to address global sustainability challenges, according to a new report published today by Global Compact Network India (GCNI) and Accenture (NYSE: ACN).

The report, “UN Global Compact – Accenture CEO Study on Sustainability 2013: Insights from CEOs in the Global Compact Network India,” was launched by Mr. Veerappa Moily, Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Government of India, at Global Compact Network India’s 9th National Convention at ITC Maurya. The National Convention is the largest gathering of CEOs, country managing directors and senior officials from public and private sector and civil society organizations to discuss issues of sustainability and corporate social responsibility in India.

The report is based on interviews and inputs from a range of CEOs of leading Indian corporations across sectors and draws comparison with the global CEO study on sustainability conducted by the UNGC and Accenture in 2013, the largest ever conducted with more than global 1,000 CEOs. For the India report, the Accenture and UN team gathered the views of 32 high profile Indian CEOs and Global Compact members across sectors.

Among the most significant differences between Indian CEOs and their counterparts elsewhere is the importance of communities in driving business responses on sustainability, according to the report.  Sixty three percent of the respondents to the India survey believe that in the next few years communities will have the greatest impact on the way businesses will manage societal expectations, versus 28 percent of CEOs globally and just 7 percent in China. The report also reveals that only 16 percent of the CEO sample in India say consumer demand is motivating them to take action on sustainability, versus the global average of 47 percent.

Mr Sudhir Vasudeva, President, GCNI said: “This is the first time that we have managed to replicate the UNGC Accenture Global Study in India. It is interesting to see how on some levels the thoughts on Indian CEOs completely resonate with the global outlook, whereas there are also stark contrasts on some issues. Indian companies realise that it may not be possible to climb-up the sustainability curve by aping practices adopted by developed nations, due to the unique circumstances and challenges that we face. Therefore, they are exploring various options and tailoring global best practices to fit Indian contexts to find their own unique path toward achieving inclusive growth through the sustainability agenda.”

The report reveals that, in response to the challenges businesses are facing in addressing sustainability issues, 97 percent of the Indian CEO sample say that an increase in efforts by governments and policymakers to provide an enabling environment for the private sector will be integral to advancing sustainability.

The “Indian CEOs are dealing with a different situation from the their global counterparts on sustainability issues,” said Peter Lacy, Managing Director, Accenture Sustainability andBusiness Strategy Services, Asia Pacific, who led the global and India studies. “They need to balance rapid growth with sustainable development within the political and cultural complexities of the world’s largest democracy. According to the report, communities and governments are viewed as the most important stakeholders in influencing the behavior of businesses in sustainability as opposed to consumers. That will require businesses and policy makers to more effectively engage with citizens to design the most appropriate approaches to sustainability.”

The CEO Study highlights the ability of ‘Transformational Leaders’ in sustainability to combine market-leading financial performance with sustainability leadership. It reveals approaches to sustainability by Transformational Leaders. For instance, they regard environmental and sustainable issues as important to the success of their business and reject traditional perceptions of sustainability as philanthropy; they engage effectively with investors and NGOs; and they measure and reward employee performance in sustainability.