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New report reveals the early adoption of sustainability pays off

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Companies fall into two groups, “embracers” and cautious adopters of sustainability, with the embracers enjoying significant commercial gains.

Despite the recession, sustainability investment actually grew in 2010, with companies falling into two camps. The one formed by early adopters of sustainability strategies now enjoy significant commercial gains. This was revealed by the second annual global sustainability study from the MIT Sloan Management Review (MIT SMR) and The Boston Consulting Group.

In one group are those that see sustainability through a narrow lens focused on risk management and energy efficiency. The other is dominated by the growing number of companies that are taking a long view of sustainability, seeing it as a core strategy that enables long-term business growth and a range of intangible advantages. About two-thirds of companies in the second group, the so-called 'embracers,' believe these kinds of sustainability investments are paying off and boosting their profits.

The embracers of sustainability share some common traits: They tend to be large and resource intensive. They believe sustainability offers a competitive advantage and can help a company earn their license to operate. Embracers are both early movers and long-term thinkers that balance a broad perspective that takes in a distant horizon with an immediate focus on short-term results. Sustainability is driven from the top, bottom and integrated across the company.

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