This MIT Research Report on companies' sustainability management found "embracers" are outpacing "cautious adopters" in business performance. Embracers share seven specific practices, including being authentic and transparent with consumers. The majority of all surveyed companies said improved brand reputation is one of the greatest benefits of addressing sustainability.
Posted on MIT Sloan Management Review
February 10, 2011
SPECIAL REPORT: Sustainability & Innovation
Sustainability: The ‘Embracers’ Seize Advantage
How fast are businesses adopting sustainability-driven management? New study results reveal two distinct camps: 'embracers' and 'cautious adopters.' And the practices of the embracers may be providing a snapshot of how the management future will look.
The report identifies seven specific practices exhibited by embracer companies, which together begin to define sustainability-driven management. These include the need to move early, even if you don’t have complete information; to be authentic and transparent both internally and with the external stakeholders; and to work aggressively to “de-silo” sustainability, integrating it throughout company operations.
• Improved brand reputation is perceived as the biggest benefit of addressing sustainability.
• Automotive is seen as the industry for which sustainability is most critical now.
• The commitment of the cautious adopters to sustainability is increasing at a far faster rate than that of the embracers.
• Most companies — whether currently embracers or not — are looking toward a world where sustainability is becoming a mainstream, if not required, part of the business strategy.
READ THE REPORT
A sweet spot on the adoption curve?
The surprising downturn response; universal first moves — waste reduction and resource efficiencies; embracers and cautious adopters: two views of the business case
Embracers are top performers; embracers conceive of sustainability advantage broadly; managing change on the adoption curve
FOCUS: For growing companies in growth markets, sustainability investments come easily
CASE: Unilever lengthens its time horizons
FOCUS: Intangibles and the business case
External forces are pushing business toward adoption; cautious adopters are aiming to catch up
FOCUS: Unlikely partners unite
How to do what the embracers do — seven emerging practices
A picture of the management future
About the research; survey questions & responses
Knut Haanaes is a partner and managing director in the Oslo office of The Boston Consulting Group, as well as the global leader of BCG’s Sustainability Initiative.
David Arthur is a consultant in the Oslo office of The Boston Consulting Group.
Balu Balagopal is a senior partner and managing director in the Houston office of The Boston Consulting Group.
Ming Teck Kong is a project leader in the Singapore office of The Boston Consulting Group.
Martin Reeves is a senior partner and managing director in the New York office of The Boston Consulting Group. He is also the global leader of BCG’s Strategy Institute.
Ingrid Velken is a project leader in the Oslo office of The Boston Consulting Group.
Michael S. Hopkins is editor-in-chief of MIT Sloan Management Review, which brings ideas from the world of thinkers to the executives and managers who use them to build businesses.
Nina Kruschwitz is an editor and the special projects manager at MIT Sloan Management Review, where she coordinates the publication’s editorial and innovation hub activities.
Maurice Berns, Partner and Managing Director, BCG
Keith Bussey, Project Leader, BCG
Sarah Murray, Writer
Diederik Vismans, Consultant, BCG