A group of major companies, all leaders in their industries, have formed the Sustainability Innovators Working Group -- aiming to define and develop new approaches to environmental management and corporate sustainability. Esty Environmental Partners (EEP), the organizer of the group and a premier sustainable business consulting firm, and IBM (NYSE: IBM), a participant and supporting partner, announced the launch today.

Members include a diverse combination of some of the world's leading companies, recognized for their advanced work in sustainability practices, such as Boeing, CH2M Hill, Coca-Cola, Delhaize Group, Disney, Diversey, Dow Chemical Company, FedEx, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies, Inc., Shaklee, Unilever, and Xerox.

"Finding the right strategic response to the sustainability imperative is a core competitive challenge for companies," said Dan Esty, EEP Chairman and Hillhouse Professor at Yale University. "Companies that meet this challenge will find new ways to reduce risks and costs, achieve growth through innovation, and enhance the value of their brands. Through our partnership with IBM and our work with these leading companies, we plan to bring sustainability strategy and execution to a new level."

Working together, the Sustainability Innovators Working Group participants will define a new set of management systems and tools for achieving greater value from sustainability strategy.  Each company will be able to apply the best practices from this collaboration within their own organizations not only to achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness in their operations, but also to better identify and develop related opportunities for innovation and growth.

A starting point for the group's work will be the recently published Harvard Business Review article (May 2010), The Sustainability Imperative, co-authored by Dan Esty and David Lubin, EEP Senior Adviser and Chairman of the Innovators Working Group. This piece argues that companies need to have both a clear vision and a strategy for execution to deliver sustainability value.

"Organizations are facing unprecedented challenges related to energy and the environment that involve a fundamental rethinking of the way our world works," said Wayne Balta, vice president environmental affairs and product safety, IBM. "These challenges have systemic implications that extend beyond any single company, industry sector, or government entity."

Each of the participating companies brings a wealth of sustainability experience and expertise to the table.  Esty Environmental Partners has been a pioneer in sustainability strategy development.  IBM contributes consulting and analytics to improve performance for energy and water use, waste reduction, and other key dimensions of sustainability, through its portfolio of Sustainable Solutions and Intelligent Systems. The Innovators Working Group will generate new management tools and models for incorporating sustainability more deeply into business strategy and corporate practice.