Internal Research

The Center for Sustainable Business conducts research related to sustainable business on topics including sustainable finance, sustainable management, supply chain, and the business case for sustainability.

Our thematic research areas include tracking the financial case for sustainability, shifting from short-term, shareholder value creation to long-term, stakeholder value, engaging consumers around sustainability, and sustainability-driven innovation and business opportunities. These thematic areas arose from four problems we identified that original research can help address.

Problem 1. The Financial Case for Sustainability is Not Well Understood or Tracked

Summary: Companies do not comprehensively measure or monetize the benefits of embedding sustainability in the core business strategy. Therefore, neither corporates nor investors are evaluating the full value that sustainability can deliver, which leads to sub-optimal investment decisions. To address this problem, CSB develops case studies and metrics to monetize sustainability benefits and their relationship with the mediating factors (both tangible and intangible) in corporations and supply chains.

Highlighted research: The NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business uses its Return on Sustainability Investment (ROSI) methodology to monetize the benefits of sustainable practices. ROSI can be applied to practices throughout an organization that has already been implemented, are currently in development, or for future projects. Read more about our ROSI Methodology here.  

Problem 2. Companies and investors need to shift focus from short-term thinking and shareholder primacy to long-term value creation that engages stakeholders.

Summary: Many within the investment community still believe that the relationship between sustainability and profitability tends to be inversely related. ESG data often lacks quality and sits behind "black box" models. To address this problem, CSB engages with companies and investors on how they use ESG data to better understand its contribution to corporate financial performance and societal impact.

Highlighted research: The NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business (CSB) engages in the Quality Jobs and Wellbeing Research Initiative, exploring whether investments in improving the quality of employment are good for corporate financial performance and investor returns. 

Problem 3. Knowledge of consumer purchasing of sustainable products or effective sustainability messaging to consumers is often based on intent to purchase data.

Summary: Companies, and marketers, in particular, have not fully embraced sustainability because they remain unconvinced that consumers at large will prioritize sustainability in their final purchase decisions. Little data exists on actual purchases of sustainable products, and messaging focuses on "green" products. To address this problem, CSB studies the “gap” between consumer's expressed intention to purchase and actual purchasing patterns and what this means for messaging sustainability actions.

Highlighted research: NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business and IRI launched the Sustainable Market Share Index in March 2019. The research team seeks to discover (A) how purchases of sustainable products have changed over time and (B) how these trends might play out among different CPG product categories. Read more about our Sustainable Market Share Index here.

Problem 4. Social, environmental, and economic challenges present a business opportunity, but people don’t always act on this.

Summary: Many businesses discount the business opportunity presented by addressing the global challenges we face as a society. However, the potential size of the prize is in the trillions of dollars, and innovation and growth opportunities arise when companies solve sustainability challenges such as creating more energy-efficient products. To address this problem, CSB assesses promising financing mechanisms, conducts economic modeling, and identifies the drivers and benefits of sustainability-driven innovation within companies.

Highlighted research: The Invest NYC SDG Initiative is a two-year project led by NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business with the goal of driving private sector financing of a more sustainable, inclusive and resilient New York City. Read more about it here.

Please find our latest reports, white papers, and case studies below.

CSB Articles and Reports

CSB White Papers

CSB Case Studies

CSB Working Papers

Kronthal-Sacco, Randi and Whelan, Tensie and Van Holt, Tracy and Atz, Ulrich, Sustainable Purchasing Patterns and Consumer Responsiveness to Sustainability Marketing (August 1, 2019). Available at SSRN:

Van Holt, T., Douglas, E., and Atz, U. Homogenous sustainability strategies in the auto industry. What strategies may drive financial benefits, and what is left on the table? In draft.

Van Holt, T., Statler, M., Whelan, T., Atz, U., van Loggerenberg, M., and J. Cebulla. Sustainability and Innovation: Signs of an Industry Transformation. Under review.