Sustainability becomes a key priority

Ninety-seven percent of organizations are taking steps to improve sustainability—a number that represents a five-point increase over last year, as well as a cross-industry consensus on the importance of becoming more sustainable.

Most commonly, companies are using AI to become more sustainable. This makes sense, as the bulk of a project’s or product’s sustainability impact is determined during the conceptual phase—a part of the process when organizations can use AI tools to optimize their decision-making for specific outcomes, including sustainability. Architects, for instance, are using AI to analyze urban design factors like traffic, noise pollution, and heat before shovels ever go into the ground. In the D&M sector, designers are leveraging AI to help reduce energy consumption and materials waste during production.

Other popular actions include increasing the use of recycled materials and renewable energy, investments in more energy-efficient processes and equipment, and efforts to reduce waste. Notably, no more than 34% of respondents say their companies are using any one of these methods. This suggests that organizations are only taking actions that will be effective in their specific settings, rather than simply adopting broadly popular tactics.

Car design firm Automobili Pininfarina now sources its leather locally and seeks more sustainable materials to build its cars. “We are buying regionally, which means that there is zero pollution from moving the leather on a boat or on a car before it is finally delivered to our office,” says Dave Amantea, chief design officer at Automobili Pininfarina. “We also try to reduce the usage of plastic in our cars as much as possible, building with carbon fiber, glass, and aluminum instead.”

Damir Jaksic, CIO of design and engineering firm KEO International Consultants, says the firm is upping its use of recycled content and locally sourced materials. “We are increasingly specifying the use of sustainable materials in our projects, such as recycled content, locally sourced materials, and materials with a low environmental impact,” he says. “We have around 80 sustainability professionals who are on the same floor as the designers, so there are a lot of collaboration opportunities.”

These actions are consistent with Autodesk data showing that user engagement with Autodesk products that enable sustainable outcomes increased by 14% across industries from January 2023 to November 2023 (though this does not take overall subscriber growth into account). This trend was particularly pronounced in the APAC region, where the number of users adopting these products increased by 51%. While more AECO organizations are adopting Autodesk products that drive sustainable outcomes, the growth of users in other industries is also robust.

AI jumps to the top sustainability action

Top 5 actions showing year-over-year change

Survey question: What changes has your company or organization already made to be more sustainable? Select all that apply.

Changing sentiment

As organizations take more sustainability-centered actions, leaders and experts report significant changes in how they feel about their companies’ efforts. 

This year, 78% are proud of their company’s sustainability efforts, up from 52%—a full 50% increase over last year. This is a seismic shift in sentiment, and it is reflected in interviews with business leaders and experts, who largely say that their companies’ leadership, employees, and customers are united in their desire to improve sustainable outcomes. 

“We’re doing everything we can around using renewable energy, electrifying our fleet of cars, and minimizing air travel,” says Dave Mackenzie of Aurecon, a design, engineering, and advisory firm. “To help our clients get to net zero, we need to walk the talk. We’re not paying lip service; we’re driving legitimate change through the business.”


of experts and leaders say that employees are “very influential” in motivating them to create and meet sustainability goals, up from 23% last year, a 57% increase

Top motivators

Gone are the days when sustainability was seen primarily as a concern for government regulators. Customers, employees, and investors are all becoming more influential motivators as companies pursue their sustainability goals.

Just over four out of five respondents say they face pressure from each of these groups to be more sustainable, a sentiment that is also reflected in interviews. “Some customers say, ‘We want the greenest building ever,’ and will put an extra $10 million into the project to install the best sustainability features in that building,” says Michael Dufhues, board member at commercial construction company Bremer SE. “It’s about what the customers want. The market dictates the decision.”

Government regulation trails slightly behind, with three-quarters of respondents saying their companies face government pressure to be more sustainable.

“There are many sources of pressure to be more sustainable—there’s media pressure, corporate pressure, new regulations, and incentives from the European Commission or governments,” says Jean-Francois Guiderdoni of robotics solutions for water management company ACWA Robotics. “Both governments and companies are starting to look beyond just rules and negative financial impact; they’re realizing there’s a lot of economic potential in sustainability. It’s actually creating value and generating a virtuous cycle.”

Which of these groups is influential in motivating your company to set and meet sustainability goals?









The percent of respondents who say each group is influential.

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