We are the architects of change.

Sustainability is not an initiative. It is both a goal and an outcome, driven by commitments that must be deeply embedded into an organization’s culture, operating models and daily workflows in order to spur transformation and growth.

Your role is to establish the connection points between community resilience, environmental impact and business operations.

Think of it as remapping your business strategy to a Venn diagram of people, planet and profit, with impact sitting at the center.

Three blue circles with icons inside: a group of 3 people, the world, and a dollar sign.

Good news: your colleagues and your competitors know that acting on environmental, social and governance (ESG) measures is good for business. Troves of data and research prove it. According to the Institute for Business Value’s 2022 CEO Study, “Own Your Impact,” which surveyed 3,000 CEOs around the world, sustainability investments have more than doubled over the past five years as a percentage of revenue.

“Above all, becoming more sustainable is an opportunity to innovate.” —Kareem Yusuf, Ph.D., General Manager of IBM Sustainability Software

This represents a promising shared understanding that protecting the future can be a pathway to growth and prosperity for any business. Even so, nobody is tackling sustainability alone. You’ll need help from colleagues, technology, lots of data and an ecosystem of partners to support you.

83% of leaders expect improved results from sustainability investments within the next five years.¹

Key insight

While 86% of companies have a sustainability strategy, only 35% have taken action on that strategy.²

To start, you need to assess your business priorities and operational opportunities, which can fall into four mindsets. You may be firmly in one mindset or split across all four. No matter where you are on this journey, this guide provides key insights, actionable resources and technology solutions that can help turn your ambitions into action.

Which mindset are you?

Sustainability innovation can drive better business outcomes. When the IBM Institute for Business Value and Oxford Economics surveyed nearly 2,000 executives from 32 countries about sustainability ambitions, actions and outcomes, we noticed that about 13% stood out among their peers as what IBM calls “trailblazers”. Compared to three other archetypes —strivers, stragglers and sideliners —trailblazers anticipated more revenue growth, up to 19% higher.

You achieve “transformational sustainability” when sustainability becomes an integral part of your organization’s business strategy. As Fausto Ribeiro, CEO of Banco do Brasil, a Brazilian financial services company, explains, “We have incorporated sustainability into our corporate strategy and, therefore, it is present in the dynamics of our daily lives, with reflection in the business strategy, risk management and operational plans of our units.”

Here are four ways digital technologies can drive sustainability, all of which are explored in this guide.

  1. By helping enterprises meet regulations 
  2. By helping enterprises achieve and enhance differentiated leadership
  3. By increasing customer stickiness and recognition 
  4. By improving internal optimization

Let’s start by assessing your current state. Then we’ll dive into the two tracks — Build and Operationalize — to learn more.

6 in 10 sustainability trailblazers outperform in innovation.

Build your roadmap

To become a sustainability trailblazer, you need a strategic roadmap that drives innovation while addressing demands from stakeholders.

Operationalize your strategy

Sustainability trailblazers connect their goals to daily operations with data, automation and intelligent infrastructure.

¹ CEO Study: Own your impact. IBM Institute for Business Value. 10 May 2022.
² Sustainability as a transformation catalyst. IBM Institute for Business Value. 10 January 2022.