The current economic system has placed enourmous pressure on the planet whilst catering to the needs of only about a quarter of the people on it, but over the next decade twice that number will become consumers and producers. Traditional approaches to business could collapse, and companies will be forced to develop innovative solutions.

The quest for sustainability is starting to transform the competitive landscape, which will force companies to change the way they think about products, technologies, processes and business models. By treating sustainability as a goal, early movers will develop competencies that rivals will find to be hard-pressed to match. That competitive advantage will shine a positive light on these companies, because sustainability will always be an integral part of their operations and strategy.

Our research shows that companies that want to start the journey of creating more sustainable business have to go through several stages. In each stage they face different challenges and must develop new capabilities to tackle them.

First of all they have to see environmental compliance as an opportunity rather than a burden. In many industries, like for instance automotive, first movers gained large competitive advantage fulfilling emission regulations in advance.

Secondly, supply chains must become more sustainable, that is companies need the ability to identify and innovate those operations that are consuming more energy and generating more waste. Reverse logistics is a key capability to be introduced and managed.

In a third phase, sustainable products and services become an integral part of the company’s portfolio. To design sustainable products, companies have to understand consumer concerns and carefully examine product life cycles. They must be able to combine marketing skills with raw-material and distribution management skills.

The capacity to create sustainable business models is the last stage, which includes new ways of generating revenues through sustainable processes, products and services. Developing new sustainable business models requires to explore different alternatives of doing business, as well as understanding how customers’ needs can be catered for.

CBE brings to its clients the capacity to support all stages of the sustainability journey, generating lasting competitive advantao