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The trends are clear, and the stakes are high. Climate change, demographic shifts and population growth are increasing the sustainability demands placed on businesses. Our research has found that companies need not see these demands as a cost burden nor respond to them with tweaks to their businesses or “greenwashing.” Sustainability is both a business necessity and an opportunity, what PepsiCo’s Dan Bena calls the sustainability bull’s-eye. Even moderate changes to company business models can reap significant financial rewards.
Our study found that many companies are generating profits from sustainability. To do so, they are following these five practices:
1. Be prepared to change business models. Business-model innovation is a key indicator of whether a company will profit from its sustainability activities. Since business-model innovations can involve significant corporate change, organizations should address the need for and the speed of that change. Setting multiyear sustainability goals that matter needs consistent top management attention, especially if achieving the goals requires adding new capabilities and changing elements of the business model.
2. Lead from the top, and integrate the effort.
Although the momentum for sustainability efforts is often bottom-up, Sustainability-Driven Innovators lead it from the top.