Divides and Dividends Framework

Sustainable leaders view stakeholders holistically and lead with purpose

Sustainable leaders view stakeholders holistically and lead with purpose

This study illuminates the value of sustainable leadership and bolsters the business case for embedding sustainability strategies, taking a holistic stakeholder view, and prioritizing value creation. Holistic stakeholder view prioritizes both internal and external stakeholders

  • Consumers/Customers 
  • Workforce: Full-time, Part-time and Gig 
  • Supply Chain
  • Business Peers, Partners, Strategic Alliances, 
  • Government, Regulatory
  • NGOs, Multilateral Organizations
  • Industry, Trade Associations
  • Influencers: Media, Key Opinion Formers, Experts
  • Society Broadly and Local Communities
  • Planet and Environment

There is a growing cadre of executives – and especially next-generation leaders – driven to lead sustainably.

Organizations have an opportunity to unlock the contributions of leaders and employees at all levels of the organization, who increasingly, define their life purpose by their work.

According to a recent McKinsey study, 70% of employees said their sense of purpose is defined by their work ... as a company leader you play an important role in helping your employees find their purpose and live it.

Source: Help your employees find purpose - or watch them leave, McKinsey, April 2021

Embedded sustainability strategies yield both financial and non-financial dividends




Improve the livelihoods, health and well-being of individuals
  • Fairness in the workplace (e.g. pay equity, equal access to opportunities)
  • Diverse and inclusive cultures in the workplace Improved access to benefits, education and training opportunities in the workplace
  • Supporting local business owners
  • Product innovation focused on improving social and health outcomes
  • Proactively addressing social issues (e.g. access to education, discrimination, financial literacy)

Reduce environmental harm and create environmental benefits

  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions of products and services
  • Enable recycling and reuse of products and materials
  • Reduce the use of water and other raw materials
  • Invest in low-carbon transportation for goods
  • Reduce pollution and landfill

Reduce environmental harm and create environmental benefits

  • Reduction in operating costs
  • Increased investment in R&D
  • Improved access to financing
  • Greater long-term shareholder returns

Leading organizations realize the benefits


Proof positive

According to McKinsey, employees who say that they live their purpose at work are six times more likely to want to stay at their company and one and a half times more likely to go above and beyond to make their company successful. They also report higher levels of resilience and good health. [Source: Help your employees find purpose - or watch them leave, McKinsey, April 2021]

According to Deutsche Bank, companies with high ratings for environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors have a lower cost of debt and equity, and 89 percent of the studies they reviewed, show that companies with high ESG ratings outperform the market in the medium (three to five years) and long term (five to ten years). [Source: Sustainable Investing, Deutsche Bank, June 2021]

Unilever reports that the company’s Sustainable Living Brands (such as Dove, Hellman’s and Domestos) have consistently outperformed the average growth rate of the rest of the portfolio since the metric was introduced in 2014. Furthermore, the company has avoided over one billion euros in costs, by improving water and energy efficiency in its factories, and using less material and producing less waste. [Source: Unilever celebrates 10 years of the Sustainable Living Plan, Unilever, May 2020] 

The time is now. The opportunity is today.

In closing, leaders have an unprecedented opportunity to guide organizations and the wider community of stakeholders towards a vision of the future that is more hopeful, constructive, and relentlessly determined to leave this world a better place. What is required is the collective will, the drive, and the discipline to do so to change the way the world is led.


About the Study

The business case for sustainability is undeniable. Leaders who bridge the divides that threaten our global societies will yield significant triple-line dividends.

In a major global survey of C-suite executives, next-gen leaders, and employees, we reveal how leaders can grasp this opportunity:

  • What are the environmental, social, and economic divides that leaders should solve?
  • How ready are leaders to advance the sustainability agenda?
  • What actions should leaders take to deliver lasting value for people, planet, and profit.

The study was conducted with 9,500 employees and next-generation leaders in 11 growth and mature markets from April 16 to May 12, 2021.


Divides and Dividends

Access an unprecedented sustainable leadership study with 9,500 respondents in 11 countries and learn what actions leaders should take to deliver lasting value for people, planet and profit.