It’s hard for companies to recognize that sustainable production can be less expensive. That’s in part because they have to fundamentally change the way they think about lowering costs, taking a leap of faith that initial investments made in more-costly materials and methods will lead to greater saving down the road. It may also require a willingness to buck conventional financial wisdom by focusing not on reducing the cost of each part but on increasing the efficiency of the system as a whole.

Rapidly developing economies are often portrayed as sustainability laggards – focused more in raising their citizens out of poverty than on protecting the environment. It’s true that their regulatory bodies can be weak, hesitant to impose restrictions on newly liberalized markets, or resentful of pressure from industrialized nations. But the developed world has never had a monopoly on visionaries. And in markets where the pressures of resource depletion are felt most keenly, corporate sustainability efforts have become a wellspring of innovation.

Read the full text from the Harvard Business Review – Making Sustainability Profitable, lessons from emerging markets by Knut Haanaes, David Michael, Jeremy Jurgens, and Subramanian Rangan

Author: Jeremy Jurgens is Chief Information and Interaction Officer at the World Economic Forum

Image: A farmer picks cotton on a farm in Egypt REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh