Companies have largely accepted the importance of addressing sustainability issues, yet a large gap persists in translating that awareness into action. So says a new global study—“Sustainability’s Next Frontier: Walking the Talk on the Sustainability Issues that Matter Most”—by MIT Sloan Management Review (MIT SMR) and The Boston Consulting Group. 
The study, based on a survey of more than 1,800 executives from companies around the world, found that the stated importance of sustainability has remained largely constant since 2010. Close to 90 percent of executives believe that sustainability-oriented strategies are essential for current and future competitive advantage.
The research, however, highlighted a disconnect between belief and action. For example, two-thirds of executives rated environmental or social issues as significant or very significant, yet only 40 percent reported their companies were “largely” addressing them. Just 10 percent reported their companies were “fully” addressing these issues.
Companies that take effective action on the sustainability issues that they identify as important to their organizations—those that walk the talk, in the report’s parlance—differ in several ways from companies that merely tout the importance of sustainability issues but do little to address them. The study suggests that “walkers” articulate a clear sustainability strategy, place these issues permanently on the top-management agenda, develop a clear business case for sustainability-related initiatives, and change their business models to address the material sustainability issues they face.