Since 2010, MIT Sloan Management Review and The Boston Consulting Group have been charting how organizations have responded to the sustainability challenge — its accelerating evolution to a source of competitive advantage and ultimately profit. Our 2011 study found Sustainability Embracers who firmly believed that sustainability is necessary to be competitive.
Last year, we probed the business dimension more deeply and discovered that sustainability had become a permanent element of many company agendas and a source of profit for some.
This year, the trend towards profit continued: key measures bumped up and showed that sustainability is paying off for a growing number of companies. Overall, the portion of respondents reporting profit from sustainability went up 23 percent to 37 percent of the total. The number of respondents saying their organizations had created a business case for sustainability went up similarly.
But perhaps most important: nearly 50 percent of companies have changed their business models as a result of sustainability opportunities — a 20 percent jump over last year. As we will explore in detail, business-model innovation is the crux of sustainability profits. Companies reporting that it adds to their bottom lines leverage these innovations to translate sustainability opportunities and pressures into profits.
Our inquiry includes a survey to which more 2,631 executives, managers and thought leaders from around the world and from a wide range of industries responded. The sample was drawn from a number of different sources, including MIT alumni, MIT Sloan Management Review subscribers, BCG clients and other interested parties. Findings from the survey and from our executive interview series are the basis of this report.