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 Define and deliver financial and wider business value
 from corporate responsibility and sustainability.

Our Partners


Verizon is focused on accelerating social change by using the company’s innovative technology to help solve pressing problems in education, healthcare and energy management.

Campbells partner

Campbell is driven and inspired by our Purpose, “Real food that matters for life’s moments.” For generations, people have trusted Campbell to provide authentic, flavorful and readily available foods and beverages that connect them to each other, to warm memories, and to what’s important today.

IO Partner

IO Sustainability, LLC is a research and advisory services firm. We focus on enhancing the discipline of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability to build strategic approaches that deliver Impacts and Outcomes (IO) for an organization and its key stakeholders.

Babson Partner

The Lewis Institute for Social Innovation at Babson College illuminates pathways for students, faculty, staff, foundations, and corporate partners seeking social innovation solutions. By drawing upon Babson’s core methodology of Entrepreneurial Thought & Action®, we activate unexpected and fruitful collaborations and integrative designs for action. The result is business prosperity and societal improvement. We extend our impact through the Babson Social Innovation Lab, an action tank powered by Toyota, that incubates people and ideas in the world of social innovation.

The Institute resides at Babson College, the educator, convener, and thought leader for Entrepreneurship of All Kinds​​​​​​​​​​®, and a dynamic living and learning laboratory, where students, faculty, and staff work together to address the real-world problems of business and society—while at the same time evolving our methods and advancing our programs. For more information visit http://www.babson.edu/Academics/centers/the-lewis-institute/Pages/home.aspx


For too long a debate has raged – should companies invest in corporate responsibility (CR) and sustainability initiatives and if so, how much? Does CR detract or enhance the bottom line? Project ROI finds that CR has the potential to deliver an attractive business case. The question is not whether to engage in CR programs, but how.

Project ROI establishes the potential returns on investment CR can deliver. But it’s not enough to do CR, one must do it well. Project ROI defines a clear roadmap of essential practices for companies that want to improve the impact and value of their CR and sustainability performance.

For more information, download the report




 Make CR commitments that fit your company’s core attributes and your key stakeholders’ expectations.


 Make a genuine commitment to address CR and sustainability issues.


 Think of, develop, and manage your portfolio CR practices as a valuable intangible asset.


 Build key stakeholder awareness, trust, engagement, and affinity.

For more information, download the report


Our findings on CR’s potential value is best understood within the confines of three categories:

Firm Value, Share Price & Risk

  • Increase market value by up to 6%
  • Over a 15 year period, increase shareholder value by $1.28 billion
  • Reduce systematic risk by 4%

Sales and Reputation

  • Increase revenue by up to 20%
  • Charge up to a 20% price premium
  • Build a “reputation asset” based on CR worth up to 11% of total firm value

Human Resources

  • Reduce the company’s staff turnover rate by up to 50%
  • Increase employee productivity by up to 13%
  • Increase employee engagement by up to 7.5%

For more information, download the report

Download Project ROI


To find out how the Project ROI team can support your organization, click here.


The Italian multinational Pirelli is known for its high-end, luxury-brand performance tires. The company is the world’s fifth-largest tire manufacturer with a presence in over 160 countries, including 19 manufacturing sites, and a network of approximately 10,000 distributors and retailers.

Customers, particularly those in the luxury market, have been slow to embrace the benefits of sustainability features in the product. Yet the company forecasts that its market will increasingly be shaped by:

  • Macroeconomic uncertainty: “downside risks will dominate the world economic outlook”
  • Regulatory constraints: “strong move to low-carbon economies”
  • Changes in social behavior: “demographic changes, aging population, virtual mobility, continued urbanization”

In this context the company has defined a year 2020 vision to be a sustainable company meaning it will be “smart, efficient, profitable, innovation-driven accountable and engaged to its stakeholders.” To meet this vision Pirelli has designed a 2013-17 integrated “industrial and sustainability plan.” Sustainability is viewed as a driver of core business outcomes and vice-versa.

The sustainability approach needs to demonstrate a return on capital invested across the three core pillars of Pirelli’s strategy:

  • Governance & risk management;
  • Growth; and
  • Productivity.

With regard to sustainability’s support for governance and risk management, the company took several steps in its planning process. First, the sustainability team linked to the company’s Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) process. Second, they reviewed priority enterprise risks. Third, they assessed the sustainability topics with the greatest potential to affect enterprise risks.

Finally, they defined sustainability goals that would help support ERM. Examples include:

  • A rolling resistance reduction that in the Car segment will reach -40% in 2020 as compared with 2007.
  • A reduction by 90% in the workplace accident frequency rate by 2020 compared to 2009 figure.
  • Keeping research and development spending for premium products at 7% of net premium products sales, with the aim to further develop and increase premium products safety while lowering environmental impact.
  • Growing investment in risk mitigation and prevention of business interruption
  • Adoption of increasingly advanced models for management of economic, social, and environmental responsibility in the supply chain, in view of shared development.

Sources for the Pirelli example come from the “Pirelli 2013 – 2017 Industrial Plan: Sustainability Plan 2013-2017 with Selected Targets for 2020” found at http://pid2013.iwebcasting.it/assets/files/sustainability.pdf; and the Pirelli 2013 Sustainability Report.

As of publication Lockheed Martin was in the midst of a CEO-led effort to position sustainability as a key element of the company’s business strategy. Lockheed Martin is one of the world’s largest aerospace and security companies. The company employs 112,000 people worldwide. The majority of its revenues come from military sales. It operates in five business segments: Aeronautics, Information Systems & Global Solutions, Missile and Fire Control, Mission Systems and Training, and Space Systems. Its main customer is the US government. Additional customers include foreign governments, and commercial and other contracts.

Marillyn Hewson, President and Chief Executive Officer, has made a commitment to incorporate sustainability messages in her presentations to investors and other stakeholders. Where some companies list the highlights of their sustainability reports to investors, Hewson takes steps to clearly specify how sustainability is vital for the company’s current and future success. In doing so, she explains why sustainability is a priority in terms that investors will understand and ties sustainability to financial and wider business value creation.

For example, Hewson:

Emphasizes how sustainability embeds into the company’s core messages and branding related to:

  • “Delivering Innovative Solutions for Today’s Global Challenges”
  • “Engineering a Better Tomorrow”

Links sustainability into core “megatrends” that will shape the future opportunities and risks the company must navigate:

  • The rise of digital technology and the risk associated with the increasingly connected world (which the company makes the case for being a sustainability challenge in its 2014 Sustainability Report)
  • Growing population and its demands on Earth’s resources
  • Economic uncertainty and how that influences the decisions and priorities of customers

Features products designed to respond to sustainability challenges such as:

  • Environmental monitoring
  • Renewable energy (ocean thermal)
  • Energy efficiency solutions
  • Health solutions
  • Food security solutions

Source: http://lockheedmartin.com/us/news/speeches/021815-hewson.html

Unilever is a British–Dutch multinational consumer goods company co-headquartered in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and London and is one of the world’s largest consumer goods companies. Its products are available in nearly 180 countries. Unilever is organized into four main divisions: Foods, Refreshment (beverages and ice cream), Home Care, and Personal Care. Unilever owns over 400 brands, but focuses on 14 brands with sales of over 1 billion euros – Axe/Lynx, Dove, Omo, Becel/Flora, Heartbrand ice creams, Hellmann’s, Knorr, Lipton, Lux, Magnum, Rama, Rexona, Sunsilk, and Surf.

Under the leadership of Unilever CEO Paul Polman, the company has made a commitment to put sustainable and equitable growth at the heart of its business model. The Sustainable Living Plan is designed to drive increased sales while reducing costs and risks. Unilever’s ambition is captured by a bold vision for the company to double the size of its business, while reducing its environmental footprint and increasing its positive social impact.

To meet this vision, the company has set three stretch goals for 2020:

  • Help more than a billion people improve their health and well-being;
  • Halve the environmental footprint of its products; and
  • Source 100% of its agricultural raw materials sustainability.

In 2011 Unilever combined its marketing, social responsibility, and communications teams into one department where social good forms the backbone of marketing efforts. Before that, Chief Marketing Officer Keith Weed says, “Marketing people felt they were being held back by our sustainability challenge and that it took their eyes off the ball of growing their brands. On the other hand, the sustainability people thought marketing was part of the problem and would never take them seriously.” Weed sees social purpose and sustainability as the same as marketing rather than having separate missions.

Along with the parent company, each of Unilever’s product divisions is charged with adding social purpose to its brand positioning. For example the first TV ad for the corporate brand, called “Bright Future Speeches,” puts Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi side by side with young people giving impassioned speeches about fighting child hunger. The ad promotes Unilever’s Project Sunlight, an online hub of social programs benefiting children that works in concert with the charity Feeding America. The spot closes with the Unilever “U” and the logos of Lipton, Knorr, Hellmann’s, Suave, and Dove. The effort relates to an emerging strategy to deepen the connection of customers in CR activities. More than 2 billion customers in 178 countries use a Unilever product on any given day. Therefore, the company states, small everyday customer actions can add up to a big difference. Unilever sums it up with this equation:

“Unilever brands x small everyday events x billions of consumers = big difference.”

By the end of 2012 sales had grown from 40 billion euros in 2008 to 51 billion euros, an increase of 26%. Over the last three years, Unilever saw a 10 percent annual increase in sales among those brands.

For example:

  • Lifebuoy has reached 119 million people since 2010 with its handwashing behavior change program and achieved double digit sales growth.
  • Concentrated and compacted laundry detergent which cuts CO2 by up to half have doubled in sales.
  • Signal’s brush day and night health campaign has reached 49 million people so far and helped sales grow by 22%.
  • Dry shampoos, such as TRESemme and Dove, which result in 90% less greenhouse gas emissions compared to washing hair in heated water, grew by 19% in 2012.
  • Calorie-controlled Max and Paddle Pop children’s ice creams grew in the high double digits in 2012.

Since Polman took on the CEO role in 2009, Unilever’s stock price has grown from approximately $20 per share to $40 per share.

This case vignette was drawn from the following sources: http://www.triplepundit.com/2013/09/sustainability-growing-unilevers-brand-equity-profits/;


http://unilever.com/images/ slp_Unilever-Sustainable-Living-Plan-2013_tcm13-388693.pdf;




Research suggests that involvement in the company’s CR practices teaches employees valuable new skills that they bring back to their regular roles for the company. IBM is working to put this in practice with its Corporate Service Corps program.

IBM manufactures and markets computer hardware and software, and offers infrastructure, hosting, and consulting services in areas ranging from mainframe computers to nanotechnology. The Company operates five business segments: Global Technology Services (GTS), Global Business Services (GBS), Software, Systems and Technology (STG), and Global Financing. With nearly $100 billion in revenue, the company employs over 430,000 people.

With the Corporate Service Corps, employees bring their core competencies and skills in such areas as project management, strategic planning, marketing, or engineering to an entrepreneurial company based in one of the countries designated by IBM as emerging market for growth such as Brazil, China, Ghana, India, Malaysia, Romania, and South Africa. Corporate Service Corps teams tackle issues ranging from public safety to urban agriculture.

The company highlights benefits such as:

  • Talent attraction – the program is the third most influential factor for talent seeking work at IBM after money and location;
  • Skills and competency development; and
  • Helping IBM open new markets.

The company states the program produces a $600 million return on a $200m investment. While the regular staff turnover rate is around 12% per year, the rate for employees in the Corporate Service Corps is less than 1%.


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Blog and News

Welcome to Project ROI

Those who think corporate responsibility (CR) is at best a nice thing to do, and at worst a distraction, should think again. We are pleased to launch Project ROI: Defining the Competitive and Financial Advantages of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability. This comprehensive study was commissioned by Verizon (the project’s Lead Sponsor) with the support of the Campbell Soup Company (the Supporting Sponsor). The report is issued by co-authors IO Sustainability and Babson College.

Project ROI finds that well-designed Corporate Responsibility programs lift sales, increase shareholder value and improve employee productivity.

“We commissioned this study to fill a knowledge gap about CR’s true impact on businesses,” said Rose Stuckey Kirk, chief corporate responsibility officer for Verizon.

Project ROI provides a global assessment of the range of business impacts of CR policies, processes, and programs. Among the study’s key findings: CR programs can have significant positive impacts on sales, marketing and customer engagement. They can increase revenue by as much as 20 percent, command price premiums up to 20 percent and increase customer commitment by as much as 60 percent. Project ROI stands out from other CR studies in its breadth of data coverage, focusing sharply on metrics and return on investment.

Project ROI Provides a Roadmap for Improving Effectiveness of CR Approaches

Project ROI analyzed existing research and data to assess CR’s value to society and to businesses’ bottom line, outlining a clear roadmap of good practices for companies that want to improve the effectiveness and authenticity of their CR approach. Project ROI further proves the value of CR in driving employee satisfaction, productivity and retention, and provides investors and community leaders with proof points for investing in or doing business with a particular company.

“The value and return on investment of CR programs have long been disputed, with companies questioning the business value of them,” said lead-author Steve Rochlin of IO Sustainability. “Project ROI effectively re-frames the debate and shows that the issue is not whether companies should have CR programs, but how well they design them to achieve their goals.”

Other key findings from Project ROI:

  • Corporate responsibility nurtures, grows and protects brand and reputation value, potentially by up to 11 percent of a company’s total value.
  • Over a 15-year period, companies with effective CSR programs have on average increased shareholder value by $1.28 billion. There is also an increased potential valuation for companies with strong stakeholder relationships of 40 percent to 80 percent.
  • CR impacts employees in very positive ways. Companies with a strong CR commitment can see increases in employees’ productivity by as much as 13 percent. In addition, these companies can experience reductions in turnover by as much as 50 percent, with workers willing to take up to a five percent pay cut to work for a company doing CR well.

Do CR, and Do It Well

Yet, as the study also finds, it is not enough for companies to simply conduct CR programs; they must do them well. Companies that fully commit to doing CR are rewarded by their customers and investors, while those that are viewed as insincere or dabblers do not benefit from CR or may lose market share and customer loyalty.

Report co-author Professor Richard Bliss of Babson College said: “Today’s consumers are more educated, aware and connected than ever, and they are fully aware of corporations’ sincerity and authenticity when it comes to their commitment to CR. Companies that fail to recognize CR’s power beyond the shopping aisle are taking a myopic view. CR is a formidable influencer of trust, affinity and loyalty. Companies must participate in CR with authenticity and transparency, or risk doing more harm than good to their reputations.”

Kirk said: “By quantifying the effect of CR on customer engagement and loyalty, Project ROI’s results give companies the freedom to take an entrepreneurial approach to CSR that could produce innovation and breakthroughs. We believe this study will stimulate conversation among the C-suite, small business owners, CSR influencers and academic communities, and we look forward to participating in that conversation.”

Report co-author Stephen Jordan of IO Sustainability said: “For too long companies have kept CR in a silo and viewed it as a compliance and contributions function. Project ROI shows that companies need to integrate CR as a driver of financial and wider business value. This means aligning CR will core business strategy.”

The study assessed over 300 studies primarily from rigorous, peer reviewed research. The study analyzed results and determined the financial and business related value CR delivers.

About the Authors

Project ROI: Defining the Competitive and Financial Advantages of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability was written by Steve Rochlin and Stephen Jordan, co-CEOs of IO Sustainability; and Professor Richard Bliss and Cheryl Kiser, executive director of The Lewis Institute for Social Innovation and The Babson School Innovation Lab, at Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts.

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