■ Consumer Concerns. Fifty-eight percent of survey respondents cited consumer concerns as having a sig- nificant impact on their companies. By contrast, although thought leaders acknowledged that consumer awareness is a reality that businesses must confront, our interviewees cited other drivers — such as climate change and other ecological forces — as more pressing. ■ Employee Interest. Rounding out the top three drivers was employee interest in sustainability; 56% of survey respondents selected it as an issue having a significant impact on their company. Yet among thought leaders, employee interest was deemed a far less significant issue. Thought leaders, however, con- sistently cited enhanced recruitment, retention and H E A R D O V E R “The first reward is the ability to attract the very best people. Until recently, many good graduates would not consider a career in the oil industry; now they will consider a career in an alternative energy business, even if it is inside an oil company.” — VIVIENNE COX, FORMER CEO, BP ALTERNATIVE ENERGY THE MORE YOU KNOW, THE MORE YOU DO Thought leaders and exec- utives with experience in sustainability interpreted sustainability concerns (and their management im- plications) far more broadly than did executives lacking such experience. This un- derstanding can open sometimes surprising op- portunities for capturing advantage. • While sustainability’s so- called novice practitioners thought of the topic mostly in environmental and regu- latory terms, with any benefits stemming chiefly from brand or image en- hancement, practitioners with more knowledge about sustainability ex- panded the definition for sustainability well outside the “green” silo. They tended to consider the economic, social and even personal impacts of sustainability-related changes in the business landscape. Simply put, they saw sustainability as an in- tegral part of value creation. • Self-identified experts in sustainability believed more strongly in the importance of engaging with suppliers across the value chain. • There was a high correlation between the depth of a business leader’s experi- ence with sustainability and the drivers and benefits that he or she perceived, sug- gesting that the more people know about sustain- ability, the more thoughtfully they evaluate it and the more opportunity they see in it — and the more they think it matters to how com- panies manage themselves and compete. KEY FINDINGS Survey respondents labeled Shell, maker of these lubri- cants, one of the first-class sustainability companies.
SLOANREVIEW.MIT.EDU FALL 2009 MIT SLOAN MANAGEMENT REVIEW 23 engagement — and other employee-related issues — as major benefits of addressing sustainability. By a wide margin, survey respondents identified the impact on a company’s image and brand as the principal benefit of addressing sustainability. (See “What Are the Benefits of Action?”) But thought lead- ers rarely cited this factor (or when they did, they described it as a second-order benefit), emphasizing instead a broad continuum of rewards that were grounded more in value creation — particularly sus-
- Fall '08
- Management, MIT Sloan School of Management, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT Sloan Management Review