More from the MIT/BCG Study: Seven Sustainability Lessons from Embracers

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Last month, the MIT Sloan School of Management and the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) released a research report entitled, “Sustainability: The ‘Embracers’ Seize Advantage.”  The research is based on a survey of more than 3,000 business executives and managers from companies with total employees ranging from fewer than 500 to more than 500,000.

The study focuses on two groups of sustainability attitudes – that of the sustainability strategy leaders (“embracers”) and laggards (“cautious adopters”).  Embracers are implementing sustainability-driven strategies widely in their organizations and have made the business case for sustainability.  Cautious adopters, by contrast, have become engaged in sustainability initiatives for reasons of efficiency, risk mitigation and regulatory compliance.  Regardless of group, the study found that a majority of companies are increasing their commitment to, investment in and management of sustainability.  The report also offers seven practices to learn from embracers:

1. Move early – even if information is incomplete. Embracers are willing to charge ahead even in the case of ambiguity.

2. Balance broad, long-term vision with projects offering concrete, near-term “wins.” Embracers have both big vision and specific positive bottom-line projects.

3. Drive sustainability top-down and bottom-up. Enlisting employees at all levels in sustainability yields many benefits.

4. Aggressively de-silo sustainability – integrating it throughout company operations. Rather than solely a position or a team, sustainability is an embedded process or a mindset.

5. Measure everything (and if ways of measuring something don’t exist, start inventing them). Companies are measuring everything from the obvious – waste, energy efficiency, and water conservation – to the more nuanced – impact on brand, innovation and productivity.

6. Value intangible benefits seriously. Embracers make investment decisions based on a combination of tangible benefits, intangibles and risk scenarios.

7. Try to be authentic and transparent – internally and externally. Embracers do not overstate motives or set unrealistic expectations, and they communicate their challenges as well as their successes.

To read the full report, click here.

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