While an overwhelming majority of technology industry leaders from around the globe (82 percent) closely monitor the issue of global warming, most do not have a defined energy strategy to deal with it (65 percent), according to a new global survey released by Hill & Knowlton, despite the fact that more than three quarters of business decision makers surveyed (77 percent) believe there is a need to expand the C-suite to include a chief energy officer to manage, implement and measure a company’s return on its
investment in environmental technology.

The survey, conducted by global communications consultancy Hill & Knowlton and polling partner Penn Schoen & Berland Associates, examined the viewpoints of 420 senior business decision makers involved in IT purchases from the United States, U.K., China and Canada.

“Despite the hype, few companies are plotting a measurable action plan to drive return on environment,” says Joe Paluska, head of Hill & Knowlton’s worldwide technology practice. “While the overwhelming majority looks to the CEO to own the issue, nearly two-thirds of those polled said no one within their organizations is tasked with defining the company’s energy strategy. We expect reputation, risk and return to suffer until companies really stand up and take charge and industry as a whole sets the standard for measuring return on environment.”

In China, 77 percent of respondents said their firms have not yet defined an energy strategy. The US came in second at 67 percent, followed by Canada (62 percent) and the UK (51 percent). Worldwide, 65 percent of those polled do not have anyone identified within their organization tasked with defining an energy strategy. In China, such an organizational role is almost unheard of, with 82 percent of respondents indicating that no one in their company is responsible for developing an energy strategy. The United States fared only slightly better, with 70 percent, and the UK is farthest ahead with more than half of companies (57 percent) having someone in place to define their energy strategy.

“The research suggests that there is an opportunity to expand the c-suite to include a chief energy officer,” Paluska says. “There’s a growing need for corporate accountability on energy performance as companies grapple with increasing complexity and expectations of governments, customers, shareholders and employees. Ultimately, companies will need to quantify the return on the triple bottom line – people, profits and planet – or their reputation and valuation will suffer.”

When asked how best to measure return on environment, more than half of the survey respondents (52 percent) identified improved corporate reputation as the most important return on investment for environmental programs. Actual carbon emission reduction was the most important metric to 38 percent of respondents globally, and was rated number one in the U.K. More traditional measurements (return on equity, total cost of ownership and internal rate of return0 also scored reasonably well.