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The Business of Sustainability: What It Means to Managers Now

October 1, 2009 By Maurice Berns , Andrew Townend , Zayna Khayat , Balu Balagopal , Martin Reeves , Michael Hopkins , and Nina Kruschwitz

Sustainability is garnering ever-greater public attention and debate. The subject ranks high on the legislative agendas of most governments; media coverage of the topic has proliferated; and sustainability issues are of increasing concern to humankind.

However, the business implications of sustainability merit greater scrutiny—and scrutiny of a different kind than the “green”-oriented focus that’s most common.

  • Will sustainability change the competitive landscape and reshape the opportunities and threats that companies face? If so, how?
  • How worried are executives and other stakeholders about the impact of sustainability efforts on the corporate bottom line?
  • What—if anything—are companies doing now to capitalize on sustainability-driven changes?
  • And what strategies are they pursuing to position themselves competitively for the future?

To begin answering those questions, BCG and the MIT Sloan Management Review conducted a year-long inquiry that involved in-depth interviews with more than 50 global thought leaders. This was followed by the Business of Sustainability Survey of more than 1,500 worldwide executives and managers about their perspectives on the intersection of sustainability and business strategy, including their assessments of how their own companies are acting on sustainability threats or opportunities now.

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The Business of Sustainability: What It Means to Managers Now