From green to gold, this is how companies make sustainability profitable

The topic of sustainability dominates many discussions around business today. There's no question that building sustainable products and services is beneficial to people and planet – but what about profit?

If you need proof sustainability can be profitable, here it is:

👉 S&P 500 corporations that actively manage and plan for climate change secure an 18% higher ROI than companies that don't.
👉 Companies that integrate social impact into their business boost sales by as much as 20%, enhance productivity by 13%, and increase its share price by up to 6%.
👉 At least nine companies globally generate a billion dollars or more in revenue annually from sustainable products or services. The nine companies are Unilever, General Electric, IKEA, Tesla, Chipotle, Nike, Toyota, Natura, and Whole Foods.

Let’s take a closer look at a few inspiring examples:

Unilever’s brands with purpose

In 2019, Unilever announced that its purpose-led, Sustainable Living Brands are growing 69% faster than the rest of the business and delivering 75% of the company's growth.

Unilever's Sustainable Living Brands are those that have a strong environmental or social purpose, with products that contribute to the company’s goal of halving its environmental footprint and increasing its positive social impact. Seven of Unilever's top ten brands – Dove, Knorr, Omo/Persil, Rexona/Sure, Lipton, Hellmann's, and Wall's ice cream – are all Sustainable Living Brands.

Addressing the Deutsche Bank conference in 2019, Unilever CEO Alan Jope said: "We believe the evidence is clear and compelling that brands with purpose grow. Purpose creates relevance for a brand, it drives talkability, builds penetration, and reduces price elasticity. In fact, we believe this so strongly that we are prepared to commit that in the future, every Unilever brand will be a brand with purpose."

Natura world’s largest B Corp doubled its revenues

Natura is a Brazilian beauty company that aims to source sustainable ingredients in the rainforest while achieving social, environmental, and financial outcomes.

Natura has been carbon neutral since 2007 and became the world’s largest B Corp in 2014. The company is also preserving almost 1.8 million hectares of Amazonian forest at a time when loggers are feeling empowered by the administration of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro.

If saving the planet isn't good enough for you, then maybe some cash will convince you: Since 2012, Natura has doubled its revenues to US$3.32 billion!

While Natura has been called a “champion of the earth” by the UN, it has also been labelled the world's third strongest brand in cosmetics after Neutrogena and Johnson & Johnson. The Brazilian beauty company has expanded its business globally, with its purchase of Aesop in 2013, the Body Shop in 2017, and Avon in 2019.

"We have been in the Amazon for over 20 years, long enough to know that its bioeconomic wealth is invaluable. Helping to protect the Amazon is not just about principles or ideals. We're talking about economic value," says the company's CEO, Joao Paulo Ferreira.

Ørsted world’s leader in offshore wind energy

Talking about radical sustainable transformations that turned out profitable. A decade ago when Ørsted was still Dong Energy it was one of the most coal-intensive energy companies in Europe. As an oil and natural gas company they were responsible for more than half of Denmark’s CO2 emissions. Ten  years later Ørsted was ranked the world’s most sustainable energy company in Corporate Knights’ 2021 Global 100 index of the most sustainable corporations, and is recognised on the CDP Climate Change A List as a global leader on climate action. They now develop, construct and operate offshore and onshore wind farms, solar farms, energy storage facilities, and bioenergy plants, and provide energy products to customers all around the globe. Scanning new horizons and spotting new business areas are essential to Ørsted’s strategy. 

How to kickstart your sustainable transition?

As the examples show us, the question of whether to "go sustainable" is no longer relevant. If you're not already building sustainability into your core strategy, you're already falling behind those who are. The question is whether your business can risk not going sustainable. We think not. But where do you start? And how do you bring it into the culture and DNA of your organization? 

That’s where we come in. 

We help our clients turn sustainable ambitions into a joint strategy and action at scale. We do this by facilitating online masterclasses and by training employees to become facilitators of change. Discover how we can help your team accelerate sustainable ambitions. Schedule a call with one of our Facilitators of Change.

One solution to all your sustainability challenges.

We believe companies, especially the people within them, are the ones who have the opportunity to draw a positive path forward. Let us show you how.
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