For the past five years, MIT Sloan Management Review and The Boston Consulting Group have collaborated on an annual research project to assess how businesses address their sustainability challenges. In the past, we focused on sustainability broadly as a business agenda and how that agenda drives profits and business model innovation. This year, we turn our attention to sustainability’s next frontier: addressing the most significant sustainability issues. These are the key social, environmental and economic issues that, if not embraced or addressed, can thwart a company’s ability to thrive — or even survive.
We posed three questions to get at the heart of the matter:
Our findings are both encouraging and disconcerting. Although some companies are addressing important issues, we found a disconnect between thought and action on the part of many others. For example, nearly two-thirds of respondents rate social and environmental issues, such as pollution or employee health, as “significant” or “very significant” among their sustainability concerns. Yet only about 40% report that their organizations are largely addressing them. Even worse, only 10% say their companies fully tackle these issues.
These leading companies suggest a path forward.