The Business Case for Sustainability

Businesses regularly face uncertainty when it comes to developing a business case for sustainability. The value proposition for committing time and resources to improving sustainability can be complex and unclear. However, understanding some of the largest benefits of sustainability helps to clearly identify where value can be created alongside transforming the sustainability of an operation. 

The field of business management contains a large body of work demonstrating which particular sustainability initiatives have, or have not led to a change in financial performance. Four broad groups of sustainability benefits have been identified which have shown a link between improving sustainability, meeting stakeholder demands, and increasing financial performance. The table below gives an overview of the four main groups of sustainability benefits that have been described.


Alongside each benefit are related beneficial outcomes that have been shown to improve financial performance, while the third column lists the stakeholder groups that would be the main focus of a relevant sustainability initiative. There are some cross overs between initiatives and their stakeholder group/ sustainability benefits categorization. Understanding which stakeholders will be the most affected by the initiatives helps to align the initiatives to the business’s interests as well as tailoring initiatives to the stakeholders that have the most influence over their success. A business case for sustainability can be easily constructed based on these four groups of sustainability benefits. 


Jay Whitehead