I’ve been working at the intersection of

business and sustainability for about

ten years now and the question I’ve been

asked the most often is this one what’s

the business case for sustainability

only they don’t really ask it like that

it’s more like yeah but Freya what’s the

business case the question by lying a

belief that there is none and for 10

years I’ve always wished I had a better

answer to that question a little bit

less efficiencies and savings a little

bit more revenue and top-line growth a

little bit less in the future business

will and a little more real money right

here right now because out there in the

wilds of mainstream business beyond the

sustainability bubble that I tend to

inhabit this conviction forged in the

fires of Milton Friedman that

sustainability and Penn business are

fundamentally competing forces is still

alive and well and this is a problem

because business must lead this change

business is the dominant institution of

the 21st century but if there’s no

business case business either won’t or

business just can’t now this is a

problem that’s kept me up at night a lot

over the past ten years how was I going

to find a better answer to this question

and one particular night it was keeping

me up was back in January of 2012 and I

was on deadline deadline on an essay on

this perennial topic of can purpose and

profit coexist and as I looked at what

I’d written I had to admit that there

was nothing there that was going to

convince a naysayer I needed a better

answer so I did what people do when it’s

late and they’re on deadline and they’re


I hit Google and after some frenzied

late-night googling I stumbled on the

information that Chipotle the North

American burrito chain and had 2012

revenues of two billion dollars

I know it says 1 billion here you’ll see

why that is in a minute I did a


that’s billion with a B Chipotle that

sauces all of its raw ingredients from

humane ethical sources and uses its

marketing dollars to advocate for

sustainable agriculture had 2 billion

dollars in annual revenue when it this

happened and why was no one talking

about it because there’s something about

that billion right in the language of

business that billion holds a special

mystique and companies that reach that

billion dollar revenue threshold take on

a whole new level of legitimacy and as

they should in fact less than zero point

zero zero zero zero six percent of

businesses ever make it to that billion

dollar mark and for a sustainable

business like Chipotle to do it well I

wondered if I might have found something

and further research was out through so

further research I was able to establish

that in fact Chipotle was now bigger

than Burger King that Titan of the

American strip mall and this is how in

fact the fates of those two companies

have diverged over the past five years

and you know what you’re looking at here

is Chipotle going through the roof while

Burger King flatlines and I called this

slide the new world order because as I

looked at this data I thought to myself

is this the moment those of us doing the

kind of work that I do have been waiting

for the moment when they’re new more

sustainable businesses take off and the

businesses that have failed to respond

fade away well it was a tantalizing

thought but of course one company does

not a case make but what I thought to

myself if there were more companies out

there that make a billion dollars or

more a year in out in revenue from

products or services with sustainability

or social good at their core because

people thought it couldn’t be done and

if I could prove that it could well I

might finally be able to stop being

asked that question every five minutes

for good so I did some digging and long

story short I was able to find that

there are now at least nine companies

globally with a billion dollars or more

in annual revenue from products or

services with sustainability or social

good at their core and here’s who they


so to pote Li we’ve already spoken about

next up is Nike with Flyknit you guys

familiar with flying it

it’s Nikes low waist high performance

shoe and I’ll talk a bit more about this

shoe in a minute because it’s a

brilliant example of how to build a

Green Giant

but that Footwear line generates over a

billion dollars a year now for Nike

Unilever the global packaged goods

company when Paul Polman the CEO came in

he established the Unilever sustainable

living plan a new corporate strategy for

the company this returned Unilever to a

period of growth after 10 years of low

to no growth and this was a strategy

that was about doubling the business

while having the carbon footprint and

increasing positive social impact IKEA

the global furniture company they

introduced while I was writing the book

actually a line of products for a more

sustainable life at home these are

products that help their shoppers live

more sustainably it’s things like solar

panels that you can buy at IKEA and

install on your own roof a billion

dollar revenue stream now and growing

fast GE with ecomagination ecomagination

is a line of products that a third-party

certified to save clients both energy

and money and this actually generated

twenty eight billion dollars for GE last

year I’m so a hugely hugely successful

line of things like jet plane engines

and fuel-efficient locomotives Tesla I’m

sure you guys are all familiar with

Tesla I’m guessing there folks in the

room who if they haven’t already got one

would love to have one I know I would so

this is the high performance electric

vehicle that prove the naysayers wrong

you can commercialize an electric

vehicle wholefoods

the first organic certified gross

grocery store in North America eleven

point seven billion dollars in revenue

Toyota with the Prius it’s been around a

long time but it’s still

continues to grow the original and still

the best perhaps hybrid vehicle and

finally Natura the Brazilian beauty

brand that empowers female entrepreneurs

in its value chain and sources many of

its raw ingredients from the Amazon so

these are they these are the green

giants the nine companies that generate

a billion dollars or more a year from

these products and services and together

they generate a collective 100 billion

dollars a year just from these more more

sustainable products and services