For most investors, “sustainability” isn’t about doing the right thing. The conversation has evolved. It’s about doing the smart thing. This demands an answer to the fundamental question: Does it pay to invest in sustainability?

Early results are in.

This chart, drawn from a Harvard Business School study, tracks the performance of 180 companies over 18 years. The 90 firms that adopted environmentally and socially responsible policies significantly outperformed their peers. Every dollar invested in a portfolio of sustainable companies (blue line) in 1993 would have grown to $22.60 by 2011. That beats the rise to $15.40 for a portfolio of companies less focused on sustainability (purple line).

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