Managing Director & Senior Partner, BCG Henderson Institute Fellow
Businesses are at a defining moment to act on sustainability. Those that act decisively have the opportunity to create resilience and sustainable competitive advantage for their business models for the long term.
The role of business in society has evolved. Investors, customers, employees, policy makers, and society as a whole demand proof that a company is doing more than just conducting business in a sustainable way and abiding by ethical business practices—and stakeholders expect companies to both have a purpose and contribute to the greater good. Surface-level sustainability and corporate social responsibility efforts that do not transform the business model miss the opportunity to capture the true value of what we call total societal impact (TSI).
TSI is the leverage and transformation of a company’s core business models, capabilities, and operations to create positive economic, social, and environmental impact in ways that are profitable. This growth has wide benefits for the company itself, for its stakeholders, and for society.
Those that lean in and embrace TSI and sustainability in the short term will have the benefit of advancing while others struggle to hold their ground. Companies that lean out—declining to integrate sustainability into how they survive and thrive—should carefully weigh the cost of that tradeoff in the long term.
Fully embracing and embedding a TSI lens allows companies to create meaningful, at-scale impact while unlocking new opportunities for growth and advantage. In exploring TSI opportunities, companies can expand the value of products or services on six dimensions of impact: economic vitality, environmental sustainability, lifetime well-being, ethical capacity, societal enablement, and access and inclusion.
These efforts can create new sources of differentiation, operating advantage, network dynamics, and societal value—and overall more sustainable, durable, and resilient businesses that benefit shareholders and society. They also better enable companies to live their purpose, inspire, and rally stakeholders to drive collective action toward a better future for all—transforming and expanding the role of business in society.
To help tackle climate change, advance racial equity, transition to a circular economy, boost economic development, create food systems and security, embrace large-scale renewables and clean technology, accelerate sustainable finance and investing, and build sustainable supply chains, BCG’s sustainability consultants help clients transform their business models to optimize for social and business value. This transformation can take many forms, ranging from expanding value chains to building cross-sector models.
BCG’s sustainability consultants and industry experts partner with leading companies and organizations to develop solutions that go beyond corporate sustainability initiatives and embed sustainability into core business and governance processes. Here are some of our experts on the topic.
To help clients on every step of this sustainability journey, we provide in-depth experience in industry, innovation, and digital expertise from across BCG. We apply multiple lenses, including competitive advantage, value creation, and investor and capital markets.
Our work with clients on sustainability and environmental, social, and corporate governance strategies around the world includes the following:
The C&A Foundation partnered with BCG to set up a not-for-profit innovation accelerator supporting startups and fashion players in innovating and scaling tech to make the fashion industry value chain more sustainable. Together with suppliers in India and Bangladesh, the team developed initiatives, including the first cradle-to-cradle "gold-certified" T-shirt. Learn more about BCG’s work on sustainability in fashion.
An IT services company of more than $10 billion in revenue worked with BCG to leverage our sustainability tools and create a future environmental, social, and corporate governance vision. The collaboration resulted in approximately 20 sustainability initiatives—including input and output KPIs—for the client to pursue.
BCG worked with a leading company in the oil and gas industry on a large-scale change program to increase efficiency across all business units, reorganize its corporate center, and reshape its operating model to meet sustainability goals.
BCG collaborated with WBCSD to develop "COVID-19 Business Recovery: A Guidance Framework for a Sustainable & Inclusive 'New Normal.'" The report addresses operational and financial challenges related to the pandemic and suggests guidance for a return to work in different scenarios. We also developed more in-depth advice for two industries that were disproportionately affected: FMCG and automotive.
By incorporating sustainability and societal impact into their core business models, companies can become a part of the global collective action needed to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals—and secure their own long-term sustainable competitive advantage.
We propose an iterative cycle of activity that helps companies optimize for both business value and social value in a single business model.
In today’s context, a resilient and competitive business model must optimize for both business and environmental/societal value. Gauge your model against the six dimensions of E/S impact.
Put your company’s business to work for the greater good and for your bottom line—and both will profit immensely.