Case Study

Darwinians at the gate: Sustainability, innovation and growth at DSM

22 pages
November 2013
Reference: IMD-3-2355

For Feike Sijbesma, CEO of Royal DSM since 2007, rapid changes were normal as major trends were playing out. Global population swelled, the balance of wealth shifted, often increasing disparities and inequalities, while human beings remained hooked on using more resources than the planet could handle or replace. As early as 2010, DSM formulated a strategy to build on its strength in Life and Materials Sciences, capitalizing on what it saw as the most promising global megatrends, notably health & wellness, global shifts and energy & climate change. At DSM, sustainability went way beyond complying with laws and regulations: It was a key driver for innovation and a core value for the firm. In the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2007 and the ensuing recession, cost concerns came back to the forefront, pushing the sustainability agenda to the back. The sense of urgency on environmental and social issues was gone, so how could you convince people a totally different approach to doing business was needed? Could sustainability really be turned into an effective driver for innovation and ultimately improve a company’s profitability? Were the three bottom lines – financial, social and environmental – really mutually self-reinforcing, instead of mutually exclusive? Proving the case to some still-reluctant financial investors could prove difficult. For DSM, the ultimate challenge to its broad-based sustainability agenda was quite clear: Could a case be made for sustainability as a key driver of value creation over the long term?

Learning Objective

Sustainability as driver of innovation and growth, CSR in action, corporate venturing, sustainability strategies, growth management, portfolio management.

Technology Management, Growth Management, Business Venture, Venture Capital Company, Growth Strategy, Specialty Chemical, Life Science
Global, Netherlands
Dutch State Mines, Manufacturing, Chemicals
Field Research
© 2013
Available Languages
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