Business Case Builder BETA Logo

Taking sustainability to market

Generate business value by enabling greener, healthier and more sustainable lives.

That’s the promise of this tool, developed from over 50 case studies and a series of global workshops with leading brands, led by BSR and Futerra.

Our Sustainable Lifestyles Frontier Group revealed six steps to building a business case for consumer behavior change. Making the case for enabling sustainable lifestyles demands strategic organizational fit, precedent and effective tactics. Find all three in the tool below.

Then add your case study to this growing bank of learning. If we had 10 more case studies, we’d have a much stronger tool. If we had 100, we would have the definitive business case for sustainable consumption. So get involved.

Step 1

Right behavior

The business case for ‘upstream’ sustainability is becoming widely accepted. Changing consumer behaviors ‘downstream’ has become popular, but the ROI is murky. This means many sustainable lifestyle initiatives stay in ‘pilot purgatory’ and never reach scale.

In 2013, we surveyed over 50 companies about sustainable lifestyles. The majority expect sustainable lifestyles will deliver growth, innovation and sales within five years. They also said the biggest barrier holding them back was the lack of a business case.

That’s why we’ve made this Business Case Builder.

Target the right behavior

First you need to find the area of consumer behavior with the most significant sustainability impact by:

  1. Identifying your business’ most significant impacts on society and the environment. Traditionally identified through a materiality process.
  2. Determining the role consumers play in that. Find this through a lifecycle assessment.

Identifying the right behavior won’t always be straightforward - complications and conflicts will arise. For example, packaging waste might be a relatively small part of your overall footprint, but a hugely visible problem for consumers.

You might choose your target behavior based on consumer perception, stakeholder importance or for competitive differentiation. All those are valid motivations, and should be stated upfront in your business case.

This BETA version has four broad behavioral areas; with your help we can add more.

Illustration showing upstream and downstream sustainability

Four behavioral areas:

Waste and Resources Energy and Water
Healthy Living Sustainable Products

“Only 38% of CEOs
feel that they are
currently able to
accurately quantify the
business value of their
sustainability initiatives.”

UN Global Compact
Accenture CEO Study
on Sustainability 2013

Step 2

Right value

The second step is to hone in on your business motivation. Every company seeks profit and ROI in different ways. Your business might be focused on brand differentiation, cost savings or driving innovation. While all these might be important, most businesses will focus their value creation (and internal messages) on one or two at any given time.

Target the right business driver

Your business case must prove that consumer behavior change has a ‘strategic fit’ with the business value drivers your company is currently prioritizing.

We have categorized the broad drivers of business value for this BETA version, each with a series of subcategories.


Legislation & Compliance


Short term cost & Long term supply


Brand loyalty, Awareness, Sentiment & Risk


Market share, Creation & New segment access


Penetration & Growth


IP, Technology, Relationships & Business model

Step 3

Right tactics

The biggest factor in delivering value isn’t the behavior you choose to change, but the tactic you use to change it. By analyzing over 50 case studies we have discovered that certain tactics deliver certain types of value. Some are obvious, such as marketing campaigns delivering brand value.

Others are more intriguing, like discovering that behavioral services drive value for waste behaviors but aren’t as effective for other issues. The business case for behavior change rests on matching the right tactic to the right value driver. We have identified the eight main tactics that business uses to affect consumer behaviors:


Change product or packaging to enable sustainable behaviors

Kenco created eco-refill pouches


New product that enables sustainable behaviors

Johnson & Johnson created the Neutrogena Naturals range of products


Discontinuing a product that creates unsustainable behaviors

Disney banned junk food advertising to children on the Disney Channel


New offer that challenges the market norms to create more sustainable behaviors

Amazon Kindle tablet and service created the e-book market


Campaign to encourage more sustainable behaviors

Toyota’s Glass of Water app encouraged eco-friendly driving


Service that enables more sustainable behaviors

O2 incentivized mobile phone recycling


Lobbying or subtly normalizing sustainable behaviors through mass media

NBC weaved environmental behaviors into storylines


Creating infrastructure that enables more sustainable behaviors

Barclays sponsored the London public bicycle hire scheme

Choose your tactic

Use your behavioral area and business value driver to identify the tactics most likely to succeed, then move on to Step 4.







Waste &
& Water

adapt product

Behavioral Campaign


Behavioral SERVICE


Behavioral INFLUENCE

disruptive offer

Infrastructure provision

Step 4

Right benchmark

A strong business case is built on solid evidence or precedent. Until now, this has been lacking for consumer behavior change. This BETA version provides the best publicly available case studies we’ve found. If we’ve missed a good one, please tell us.

Download case studies

Download case studies below to move to Step Five.

Tactics framework:

Discontinue Product
Infrastructure Provision

“…every job
people need or want
to do has a social,
a functional, and an
emotional dimension.”

Clayton M. Christensen,
Harvard Professor

Step 5

Do it right

During workshops in New York, Hong Kong and Paris, the global brands that attended identified two clear principles for activating sustainable lifestyles:

  1. There is only business value where there is consumer value
  2. Your business case is only as good as your activation

Find clear consumer value

You must build value for the consumer into your plan. It’s the bedrock of your sustainable lifestyle business case, and often surprisingly hard to identify.

The defining factor in the failed behavior change campaigns we investigated was that they implored, demanded or cajoled the consumer, but never offered them anything in return for changing their behavior.

Your return on investment is based on their return on effort. Smart market research, crowd-sourcing ideas and pilot testing can help you discover which of these benefits your consumer will enjoy from changing their behavior.

Also see the ‘consumer value’ sections within each of our case studies for precedent.

Consumer value has been categorized in three ways:

Functional Icon

What a product/service tangibly does for you

Sprint’s Buyback program gives up to $300 credit to recycle old phones.Between 2001 and 2012, 40 million devices were collected. In 2012, they gave consumers $75 million. Sprint saved $1 billion.

Emotional Icon

How using a product/service makes you feel

Levi’s Water<Less jeans are made with less water. Their consumers like to see themselves as changing the world. Tapping into this emotion has meant Water<Less jeans now sell faster than standard Levi’s jeans.

Social Icon

The social signals using a product/service sends to those around you

2007 was the start of the Prius sales boom. Research by CNW at the time found that 57% of Prius drivers chose the car because it ‘makes a statement about me’.

Make it great

You’ve got the right behavior matched to the right tactic, all designed to deliver the results your business values, and with clear consumer benefit. Now you need to activate your plan.

Futerra’s Change-maker Cards highlight the 13 best approaches and will help you create an activation plan.

Finalize your business case

Once your plan is finalized, you’ll have a business case to propose. Our Working Group members’ business cases followed their unique company practices. However, all of them included:

  • How this plan will improve sustainability performance (see the Right Behavior)
  • An analysis of the plan’s expected benefits to the business strategy (see the Right Value)
  • An analysis of the various options that are considered, along with the reasons for preferring some over others (see the Right Tactic)
  • Expected costs and scope, including both direct and time costs. Plus potential risks (Do It Right can help here)
  • An analysis of the risks associated with not doing the project (the Right Benchmark can help here)

For some Working Group members, all they needed was a conversation with their Chief Financial Officer. Others had to submit their business case through a formal internal process. However you take your business case forward – good luck!

Step 6

Celebrate it

Our Working Group tell us that this tool is valuable and has more potential than the BETA version could include. Crucially we need more evidence. Please help us by sharing:

  • More case studies. We can keep them confidential if needed; they’ll still help improve the analysis.
  • Feedback. Is this Business Case Builder clear, did you use it and has it helped?

Please help BSR and Futerra improve this tool. We’ll contact you by phone, email or skype if you can help.

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The Business Case Builder has been created by Futerra and BSR as part of the Sustainable Lifestyles Frontier Group. It’s built on a foundation of:

  • A survey of over 50 executives in global businesses
  • A series of global workshops
  • Interviews with experts in the world’s leading brands
  • 50+ case studies that prove the value of behavior change. Due to confidentiality, we’ve only be able to include some of these.

Thank you

To all who responded to our survey, participated in the workshops, shared their insights in interviews and shared their business cases and case studies: thank you. A special thank you to those who made their case studies publicly available.


The information presented within this tool was prepared by Futerra and BSR, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the individual participating companies.

The Sustainable Lifestyles Frontier Group

Jointly launched in April 2013 by Futerra and BSR, the Sustainable Lifestyles Frontier Group is taking the lead on accelerating this movement, learning from participating businesses on how to enable sustainable lifestyles across industries and around the globe. To join our group, please contact Elisa Niemtzow.

Sustainable Lifestyles Frontier Group Logos