A recent Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan Management Review report claims that companies which actively adopt sustainability practices experience positive effects to their bottom lines. Analyzing a 2010 Boston Consulting Group survey of 3,000 business executives and managers throughout the world, the report divides respondents who have implemented sustainability‑driven actions into “embracers” or “cautious adopters.”

Embracers include those who say “they have established a business case for sustainability, have put it permanently on their agenda and maintain that it is necessary to remain competitive.” Cautious adopters include “those whose activities are made up of short‑term, strictly measurable investments such as resource efficiency.” According to the report, embracers were more likely than cautious adopters to describe their companies as successful and far more likely to say that sustainability increased their profits.

Citing “employee engagement” as an additional benefit of sustainability‑driven programs, the report recommends that companies (i) offer financial and promotional incentives to encourage lower‑level employees to suggest and lead sustainability initiatives; (ii) integrate sustainability into their culture rather than making it a separate initiative; (iii) act early even if potential benefits have not been fully analyzed; (iv) measure the effects of their initiatives, designing metrics to do so if none are readily available; and (v) implement a mix of programs with immediate payoffs, such as reduced electricity usage, with those that have longer‑term results, such as making products consumers will embrace as they become more environmentally aware.