This report showcases the practices of a select group of companies – emerging-country organizations that demonstrate that it is entirely possible to deliver exemplary financial performance while placing environmental and social sustainability at the core of operations and culture. The motives and actions of these New Sustainability Champions present pragmatic ways in which society can become a more effective steward of Earth’s natural resources.
More encouraging still is the fact that these exemplary companies are not the only organizations that encourage hope for a sustainable future. Many others have integrated one or more of the practices on which the Champions score high marks. Collectively, such companies signal new and positive paths toward sustainable growth in emerging economies – paths that may also point to global growth that respects and accommodates environmental and societal constraints.
These findings raise a number of key considerations for all stakeholders:
Companies of all sizes will do well to consider the long-term economic implications of failing to become more resource-efficient as supply constraints translate into rising costs. How quickly might their fiercest competitors gain advantage with pre-emptive sustainability moves? For MNCs in particular, such questions resonate even higher in emerging markets. Already, many MNCs have succeeded in those markets by making technology relevant and accessible to their users, and by educating them to use the technologies appropriately. It is not a big step to extend such approaches to sustainability initiatives.
At the same time, businesses should revisit their relationships with non-profits and NGOs, examining how they might be able to approach them as true contractual partners in long-term sustainability collaborative efforts, and benefit from the reach or political support that not-for-profits and NGOs can provide.
NGOs should reflect on how best to collaborate with companies and communities to achieve long- term success on sustainability issues. This area is ripe for exploration. The attraction for NGOs – for many not-for-profits – is that they may be able to make faster and better progress toward their objectives by partnering with businesses. For some leaders of not-for-profits, it may be a revelation that there are so many for-profit organizations eager to solve sustainability challenges.
Regulators and policy-makers will need to understand how they can use the tools at their disposal – laws, environmental regulations, taxes, subsidies, and others – to encourage sustainable and resource-efficient economic growth. They must do so not only in the context of their own national imperatives but with an eye to the global good. The New Sustainability Champions have demonstrated that it is possible to innovate and grow in resource-constrained environments. So a key question for policy-makers is this: aside from market forces and competitive pressure, what combinations of incentive pull and regulatory push would most effectively encourage other businesses to follow suit?
These findings are also the catalyst for further research. It is our intent to explore, in detail, how society can accelerate economic growth while mitigating its impact on the natural world and on the societies that are most vulnerable to that impact. In the next phase of this collaboration, the World Economic Forum and The Boston Consulting Group will:
- Research and seek to quantify the impact of such practices
- Develop a methodology which other companies can apply to become better at innovating for sustainability
- Identify the levers that other stakeholders can use to encourage desired behaviour in companies
As increasing numbers of the world’s population gain access to the prosperity provided by economic growth, it is imperative that business leaders and other stakeholders consider the lessons gained from the New Sustainability Champions as building blocks for a new model of sustainable growth.
Emerging market-based companies play an increasingly visible role in providing innovative solutions to the world’s complex challenges. If adopted by a broader business community, the lessons learned from the New Sustainability Champions could lay the foundation for a new model of sustainable growth.