Where Sustainability is Bringing Value

The Implementation Gap: Sustainability Is Seen as Creating Value Mainly Through Reputation, Not Operations

Together with Robert EcclesAlison Taylor, and Salesforce, we recently interviewed senior professionals across finance, technology, and sustainability functions to identify the major gaps that stand in the way of sustainability creating value for corporate strategy.

Our research identified an implementation gap where our respondents see sustainability delivering the most value in areas of marketing and PR, namely enhancing the company’s brand and reputation, strengthening stakeholder and community relationships, and facilitating partnerships and collaborations. Though important, the financial value of these can be harder to measure. Fewer respondents see value coming from areas directly linked to core operations that often have more direct commercial measures such as growing sales, attracting more investments, and reducing costs. These operational and measurable areas of the bottom line are the areas that senior management teams most often discuss and use to make their capital allocation decisions. It is therefore not surprising that the claimed senior support for sustainability does not turn into committed resources.


Sustainability can deliver great value through improved perceptions and relationships such as enhancing the company’s brand and reputation. However, it can repeat a pattern where sustainability teams are asked to focus mainly on reputational areas. If sustainability teams are expected to manage reputation without influencing core operations, this can lead to accusations of limited progress and greenwashing.
Leaders will be able to drive impact by better demonstrating how and where sustainability can drive value in the operational areas to which senior management teams allocate funds, so they influence the direction of the business without being siloed to only manage reputational fallout.

Find out more about how to close the four main gaps that hinder sustainability value creation in our new report Sustainable Value Creation: Closing the Gap between Stated Commitments and Operational Realities

Question: Please rate how much value each of the following sustainability actions is delivering for your organization.

Source: GlobeScan/Salesforce Value of Sustainability Project, a survey of 234 senior professionals in finance, technology, and sustainability functions