The Economy

Sustainable Gain?

What has the recession done to the sustainability movement?
CFO StaffMay 1, 2011

The recession has derailed many once-popular business trends, and you might think that high on that list would be “sustainability.” After all, it’s hard to even define it, let alone spell out a clear business case for funding it. But a new study by MIT’s Sloan Management Review, in conjunction with Boston Consulting Group, uncovered a different story. Test your knowledge of current trends in sustainability (pithily defined by Wikipedia as “the capacity to endure,” which sounds rather important, now that we think about it).

1) In the 2009 Sloan Management Review/BCG survey, 25% of respondents* said they were increasing their investment in sustainability. For 2010 that figure increased to:
A. 34%
B. 47%
C. 59%
D. 71%

2) The study found that most companies fall into one of two camps, “embracers” and “cautious adopters.” Of the former, 66% say sustainability-related actions have boosted profits. Among the latter that figure is:
A. 51%
B. 40%
C. 29%
D. 23%

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3) “Embracers” (1) have created a business case for sustainability; (2) believe sustain-ability is necessary to be competitive; and (3) have made it a permanent part of the management agenda. The percent of respondents that meet all three criteria:
A. 24%
B. 35%
C. 43%
D. 51%

4) Among responding companies with fewer than 1,000 employees, the percent that qualify as embracers is:
A. 9%
B. 22%
C. 40%
D. 59%

5) More companies qualify as embracers in this region than in any other:
A. Europe
B. Asia Pacific
C. Africa/Middle East
D. Australia/New Zealand

6) Embracers were more likely than cautious adopters to cite “improved brand reputation” and “increased competitive advantage” as key benefits to sustainability efforts. Cautious adopters were more likely to cite which of these benefits:
A. Energy-efficient cost reductions
B. Reduced waste/materials inefficiencies
C. Improved regulatory compliance
D. All of the above
E. None of the above

7) Asked “Is pursuing sustainability-related strategies necessary to be competitive?” which industry sector was least likely to answer yes?
A. Technology/Telecom
B. Financial Services
C. Health Care
D. Media/Entertainment

8) Some companies are neither embracers nor cautious adopters, but what Sloan/BCG calls “true sustainability skeptics.” The percent of respondents that merit that label was:
A. 2.3%
B. 3.5%
C. 8.8%
D. 11.0%

*3,000+ respondents at companies of all sizes around the globe
Source: “Sustainability: The ‘Embracers’ Seize Advantage,” Winter 2011,
Sloan Management Review

Answers: 1–C; 2–D; 3–A; 4–A; 5–C; 6–D; 7–D; 8–B