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Sustainability at Davos. Alive Behind Closed Doors?

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum on January 30, 2009

I heard that at a private meeting with CEOs Thursday night, many corporate executives expressed their desire to go forward on sustainability projects but were afraid to say so publicly. What a time we live in. CEOs are afraid that their boards and shareholders would disapprove of making their products greener. Why? Because boards and sharehold feel managers should focus on revenues and profits during this steep recession.

Truth is, sustainability can improve the bottom line by saving costs and, sometimes, raising profit margins.

Reader Comments

David Barrie

February 1, 2009 10:09 AM

This is obviously the critical moment for those who see sustainable products, services and ethics as the source of their future competitive advantage to stand firm. It'll be interesting to see how many fall by the wayside; how many greenwashers get flushed out!

Anne Rohinsky Clement

February 6, 2009 10:15 AM

Sustainability is not going away and CEOs know that today they must incorporate Sustainability into their businesses as a given. But it must become an integral part of the company DNA in order to be successfully implemented. Board approval or not, with the economics of today's industries, the "nice haves" are being replaced with the "must haves" and unfortunately Sustainability is not perceived as a must. This is a miss. In order to lead, to bring your brand to life, there must be an ethos in the company that breathes growth, values, and transformation...and that ethos must include Sustainability. Sustainability is not going away and the sooner that CEOs can cut through the red tape to integrate it, the better for their brands and ultimate growth. Sustainability is not just about long term, it's about acting now.

Prof M P Ranjan

February 7, 2009 3:47 AM


We were involved in this particular session having designed a set of five posters on Sustainability on behalf and on the specific invitation from the World Economic Forum. These posters were used as a backdrop for the brainstorming sessions where the CEO's present developed strategies to explore issues of Sustainability with the use of design and innovation strategies that we had proposed at the themes for the five posters.

I have a post about this event and the posters onmy blog called "Design for India" and these can be seen at this link here:

Prof. M P Ranjan
NID India

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Want to stop talking about innovation and learn how to make it work for you? Bruce Nussbaum takes you deep into the latest thinking about innovation and design with daily scoops, provocative perspectives and case studies. Nussbaum is at the center of a global conversation on the growing discipline of innovation and the deepening field of design thinking. Read him to discover what social networking works—and what doesn’t. Discover where service innovation is going and how experience design is shaping up. Learn which schools are graduating the most creative talent and which consulting firms are the hottest. And get his take on what the smartest companies are doing in the U.S., Asia and Europe, far ahead of the pack.

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