Research Outline

Fortune 500 Sustainability Approach


To understand how fortune 500 companies approach and spend on sustainability and sustainability advertising in order to help benchmark sustainability practice analysis.

Early Findings

As we dove into preliminary research on the subject, our research team found the following insights:
  • Pepsico's approach to sustainability was to create a detailed plan of actions and establish goals they hope to achieve by 2025 as it relates to sustainability in all their operations and then providing an annual report on how close they are to each goal.
  • For instance, Pepsico set a target of 25% water use efficiency in 2006 and was able to achieve the goal in 2016, improving water use efficiency by 25.8% investing $40 million in the project in that time. In 2016, they set another goal of improving water use efficiency by 25% from the 2016 baseline in 2025.
  • Pepsico seems to fund each sustainability project differently as evidenced by the fact they reported investment into water efficiency target separately, however, some sustainability goals are dependent on others so it is unclear from our preliminary research if they also have an overall sustainability budget.
  • Unilever's approach to sustainability is also similar to that of Pepsico. Unilever has a detailed and clear sustainability plan called Unilever Sustainable Living Plan with clearly written sustainability goals they aim to achieve within a certain time-frame, and each year they provide a report showing how close they are to each goal.
  • Unilever's approach is not to create a separate innovation lab focused on sustainability. Rather, the company embraced a "‘‘vitality mission’’ to align its strategies and organization around sustainability", infusing "social and environmental content into its corporate and product brands."
  • They were able to create a plan of action by organizing various sustainability labs that featured experts from all over the world and that helped them create and adopt strategies that would help them become more sustainable. The company's approach to sustainability is about decoupling its growth from its environmental footprint.
  • Rather than dedicate a certain amount to sustainability each year, Unilever has a plan of ensuring a huge percentage of its revenue are from sustainable products. In 2017, 70% of the company's revenue growth was from its sustainable brands and the plan is to keep increasing that number.
  • Our preliminary research suggests that data on sustainability advertising spend is unlikely to be available because the expense is generally grouped with advertising/marketing spend in general. Also, these companies seem to have infused sustainability into all they do and while data on some specific sustainability spending might be available, data on the company's total sustainability spending is not separated from general expenses.