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Companies are incorporating sustainability into management agendas more than ever before, according to the results of the third annual Sustainability & Innovation Global Executive Study conducted jointly by The Boston Consulting Group and MIT Sloan Management Review.
In the Winter 2012 issue of the Review, BCG tells the story of Jos de Wit, a senior research associate at Eastman Chemical, who convinced management to finance a small company’s innovative new technology that had already proved its ability to save lives. The HydroPack, a paper-thin bag designed to transform contaminated water into a nutritious drink, was put to use after the earthquake in Haiti, and de Wit wanted to back a $50,000 demonstration project to field-test it in Kenya. Once he framed the idea as fitting in with Eastman’s mission to educate and improve the world, management was sold.
For many managers, it can be difficult to see how the aspirational attributes of a project can trump other considerations when the risks of uncertain returns loom large. Nonetheless, the study provides evidence that an increasing number of companies are taking sustainable business practices seriously even when the business case for such practices is less than obvious. And while not all companies have found ways to profit from these efforts, those that have share some interesting characteristics, such as a willingness to collaborate with outside groups and a strong CEO commitment to sustainability.