With global population expected to reach 9.3 billion by 2050 and rapid economic growth in developing countries, pressure on the planet’s ecosystems will continue to increase. By 2025, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, the Russian Federation and South Korea will account for more than 50% of the world’s economic growth.

Population expansion drives increasing demand for the basic necessities of water, food and energy. Moreover, economic growth will reinforce expectations and aspirations for a better life among the world’s newest consumers. Alternative approaches to growth and development will be essential to meet the basic needs and ensure a minimum of well-being for the emergent middle classes as well as to protect the environment.

The World Economic Forum and The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) set out to seek unconventional, practical solutions to the current challenges of growth, aiming to identify and support key business practices, and to relay them to the global community. This project deliberately did not look to governments, environmental organizations or multinational corporations from advanced economies – all sources of well- practiced but as yet insufficient answers. Instead, it went to agents who deal with a wide range of constraints in their daily business: rapidly growing companies originating and operating in the emerging markets, where economic prosperity and populations are growing fastest, and where environmental constraints and stresses are often highest.

As a result of a rigorous research process, the project identified and assessed 16 emerging market-based companies that share a unique mindset and set of best practices: these are the New Sustainability Champions.

Based in countries such as Brazil, Costa Rica, Egypt and Kenya, these companies provide inspiring examples for any corporation around
the world interested in tackling the challenges of performance, innovation, growth and sustainability. Specifically, the New Sustainability Champions:

  1. Proactively turn constraints into opportunities through innovation
  2. Embed sustainability in their company culture
  3. Actively shape their business environments

Moreover, they demonstrate superior financial performance when benchmarked against their peers.

The mindset, practices and business models of these New Sustainability Champions offer critical insights for emerging market-based businesses, established multinationals and governments. They could provide multiplier effects and create the basis for replication and extension among companies operating in emerging markets. They also serve as a starting point for redefining the future of growth: one that is robust and efficiently binds together all elements of sustainability – economic, environmental and social.