Brand Management Versus Value Creation

India organizations are behind the curve when it comes to embedding sustainability across business strategy.


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Sustainability is quickly evolving from an ecological issue to a strategic imperative. There is clear evidence that organizations that pivot towards a more sustainable future out-perform those that don’t. How ready are business leaders to maximize this once-in-a-generation opportunity for growth?

Across the 11 markets we surveyed, C-suite leaders in India were the most confident about their sustainability activities: 57% say their organization has a sustainability strategy that has been acted upon and clearly communicated—ahead of the global average (43%).

Existence of sustainability strategies

Percent indicating there is a sustainability strategy in place that has been acted upon and clearly communicated

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A further 61% believe their CEO is personally committed to sustainability and organizational progress has been made.

CEO commitment to sustainability

Percent indicating the CEO is personally committed to advancing sustainability and progress has been made

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Looking ahead, 48% of C-suite leaders also expect to make significant progress/a great deal of progress towards embedding sustainability across business strategy in the next five years—compared to 39% globally. Only the Americas were more optimistic, with Brazil (64%), the United States (55%) and Mexico (50%) leading the way.

C-suite perception of anticipated progress of sustainability strategies

A great deal of progress/significant progress

Five-year outlook

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Leaders must always lead through action, not just words. People see what you do more than hear what you say. And consequently, leaders have both the opportunity and responsibility to run enterprises that are not only profitable but also responsible.

Anjali Bansal
Founder, Avaana Capital

Sustainability has long been part of the national discourse in India—prompted in part by the Companies Act 2013. A recent Schwab Foundation study found that India had the highest number of social entrepreneurs in the world, reflecting the country’s significant capabilities in creating business models that create both social and financial value. This may explain why 29% of C-suite leaders in India say their sustainability efforts are motivated by value creation—that is, they want to have a positive impact by creating new sustainable products/services, or by creating opportunities and access for disadvantaged or underserved groups. Overall, India was the third most likely of all markets studied to cite value creation as a primary driver of their company’s sustainability strategy, behind only Brazil and Mexico.

C-suite perceptions of the driving force behind company’s approach to sustainability?

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However, brand-management concerns remain the most common reason for sustainability action, with 45% of C-suite leaders in India saying their company’s sustainability strategy is motivated by the desire to be seen as socially responsible and reputable or to use sustainability for competitive differentiation.

Looking ahead, there is a significant opportunity for more leaders to recognize the ability of sustainability to unlock value for people, planet and profit. Our global research shows that when value creation is the driving force behind a company’s approach to sustainability, much more progress is anticipated in fully embedding sustainability in the company’s strategy and operations.

Anticipated progress by driving force of sustainability strategy

Percent indicating a great deal of progress / significant progress

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If more leaders awaken to the role sustainability can play in delivering lasting value for their organization and wider society, India could soon become a frontrunner in the transition to sustainable business.


Action Items

  • Audit where your organization is in the sustainability lifecycle, with a specific focus on distinguishing between surface-level or short-term actions and deep investments in changing organizational operating procedures and business models.

  • Ensure the board and executive team sign off on a credible sustainability strategy that sets out the areas of your organization that will undergo transformation, including business and operating models, leadership frameworks and culture. 

  • Determine the level of understanding of, and buy-in, for your sustainability strategy across multiple levels within the organization. Leverage areas of skepticism as opportunities to sharpen your plans.



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