Brand Management Versus Value Creation

How does the US compare to its global peers when it comes to accelerating sustainability action?


US Insights Introduction     All Local Insights     Global Insights


The business case for sustainability is now undeniable. There is clear evidence that organizations that focus as much on purpose as profit enjoy extensive financial and non-financial dividends, from higher growth to improved customer satisfaction and employee loyalty. How ready are organizations—and their leaders—to seize this opportunity?

In the US, 49% of C-suite leaders say they have a sustainability strategy that has been acted upon and clearly communicated—in line with global trends (43%).

Existence of Sustainability Strategies (US)

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

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A further 69% say their CEO is personally committed to advancing sustainability and organizational progress has been made, ahead of the global average (51%). Notably, employees are less optimistic about the maturity of their organization’s sustainability efforts and their CEO's commitment to the cause. 

CEO Commitment to Sustainability (US)

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

figure 4

Looking ahead, US C-suite leaders are bullish about the advancement of their sustainability mission: 55% expect to make significant progress/a great deal of progress towards embedding sustainability across strategy and operations in the next five years—ahead of the global average (39%).

Yet there are also indications that business leaders are at the early stages of their understanding of the value that sustainability can unlock—both for their organizations and the communities in which they operate. When asked why they were embarking on sustainability action, 46% of US C-suite leaders cited brand management concerns—they wanted to be seen as socially responsible or reputable and use sustainability for competitive differentiation. By comparison, just 18% say value creation sets the agenda.

C-suite perceptions of the driving force behind company´s approach to sustainability? (US)

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A brand-first approach is problematic because it is unlikely to lead to the transformation that is required to thrive in a new era of stakeholder capitalism. When leaders only see sustainability as a bolt-on to existing strategy, rather than a fundamental driver of business growth and value creation, they will not commit to making difficult decisions or set aside the necessary resources and capital to drive deep change to business and operational models. 

C-suite Perception of Anticipated Progress of Sustainability Strategies (US)

5-Year Outlook
A great deal / significant progress

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There is a significant opportunity for leaders to challenge prevailing assumptions about the value of sustainability to their business. Our global research shows that when value creation is the motivating force behind sustainability action, organizations achieve much more, much faster.

Anticipated Progress by Driving Force of Sustainability Strategy (US)

Percent indicating great deal / significant progress

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Leaders who see sustainability as a tool to unlock value for people, planet and profit, rather than a threat to be managed, will make the biggest strides forward in the years ahead.


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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