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New Sustainability Study: The 'Embracers' Seize Advantage

Despite the economic downturn and tenuous recovery, more than two-thirds of businesses are strengthening their commitment to sustainability, according to a new global study by MIT Sloan Management Review and the Boston Consulting Group, as reported in this article.
The study found that 69% of companies surveyed plan to step up their investment in and management of sustainability this year. Just over one-quarter (26%) plan no change, and only 2% intend to cut back on their commitment.
The study also found that a two-speed landscape is emerging, with a gap between sustainability
"embracers"--those who place sustainability high on their agenda--and nonembracers or "cautious adopters," who have yet to focus on more than energy cost savings, material efficiency and risk mitigation.
Embracers are significantly more confident about their competitive position than nonembracers are. Seventy percent of embracers said they believe their organizations outperform industry peers. By contrast, only 53% of cautious adopters described themselves as outperformers, and 14% admitted to lagging behind peers--more than twice the percentage of embracers who made the same claim (6%).
In addition, nearly three times as many embracers (two-thirds of them) as cautious adopters said that their organization's sustainability actions and decisions have increased their profits.
"What's fascinating is that these findings depict a business landscape in general that's tilting hard toward where the embracers already are," says Michael Hopkins, editor-in-chief of MIT SMR and a coauthor of the report. "So the embracers have handed us a kind of crystal ball. Their insights and behaviors suggest a blueprint for how management practice and competitive strategy will evolve." The report identifies seven specific practices exhibited by embracer companies, which together begin to define sustainability-driven management.
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