From the Editor: Sustainability and
Brand — Three Questions and Answers

Why does brand reputation rate higher than waste reduction, energy savings and operational efficiencies as a reason to adopt sustainability-driven management? It has a far larger effect on the ultimate success of a business, says Michael S. Hopkins, Editor-in-Chief of MIT Sloan Management Review, in an excerpt of his interview with Sustainability: The Journal of Record.

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The Sustainability & Innovation Study in this issue is our second annual exploration of how organization leaders are (or are not) changing their management and strategy approaches in response to sustainability pressures. The study findings are voluminous and rich — not least because they now offer year-over-year longitudinal comparisons along with an up-to-the-moment snapshot of executive thinking.

The findings are too rich, in fact, to cover in full. No surprise, then, that we received a pile of questions from management journalists when the study was released — including many questions about the belief expressed by survey respondents that “improved brand reputation” is the biggest reason to adopt sustainability-driven management. Because readers likely have the same questions, let’s pick up the thread right here. Below, extracted from an interview with me by Alex Philippidis for Sustainability: The Journal of Record, are three questions and answers that dig into the sustainability-and-brand theme.

Michael S. Hopkins, Editor-in-Chief

“The MIT SMR/BCG study notes that the biggest benefit seen by CEOs is the intangible of improved brand reputation. How likely is that to remain true as most companies develop new sustainability metrics for themselves, or improve on existing ones?”

“If anything, I think that will be more true as companies develop better metrics. But that may be because I’m defining both ‘brand reputation’ and ‘sustainability metrics’ more broadly than some might; I’m defining them the way the sustainability ‘embracer’ companies would. (The embracers uncovered in our survey are the sustainability-strategy leaders, and also are the top performing businesses in general terms.)

“To those companies, an improvement in ‘brand reputation’ results in far more than just improved brand appeal to end-user customers (though it definitely does that). It results also in improved appeal to all of a company’s stakeholders, including current and prospective employees, investors, prospective strategic partners and supply chain or innovation collaborators, governments, NGOs, and any other players that are counted on as key competitive resources. So, yes, a better brand will attract more customers. But it also will attract three other things that are at least as crucial: (1) talent (2) capital and (3) collaborators.

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