Corporate Sustainability: A Strategy?

Ioannis Ioannou
London Business School
March 29, 2021 – 04:00 – 05:15 PM (CET)
Live virtual event: please register for this talk via Zoom


Seminar Abstract
We explore the conditions under which firms maintain their competitive advantage through sustainability-based differentiation when faced with imitation pressures by industry peers. Specifically, we document growing intraindustry convergence on sustainability actions over time for almost all industries in our sample, suggesting that they rapidly diffuse via imitation. We also find that interindustry heterogeneity in the rates of intraindustry convergence is associated with (a) the importance of environmental and social issues relative to governance issues, and (b) the tone and volume of feedback received from stakeholders. We subsequently distinguish between common (i.e., imitated) and unique sustainability actions and evidence that the adoption of unique sustainability actions is significantly and positively associated with multiple measures of corporate performance, whereas the adoption of common sustainability actions is not. Our results provide insights into the role of sustainability as a long-term strategy under conditions of strong imitative forces, thus contributing to both the sustainability and the imitation literatures. We discuss implications for future research and practice.


Speaker Bio
Ioannis Ioannou is a Professor, an Advisor and a Keynote Speaker on Sustainability Leader­ship and Corporate Responsibility. Through his academic work, advisory roles, teaching, and engagement with executives, he seeks to understand and explore whether, how and the extent to which companies and capital markets can lead on the path towards a sustainable future. He graduated magna cum laude from Yale University, majoring in Economics and Mathematics and holds a Ph.D. in Business Economics from Harvard University and the Harvard Business School. He is currently an Associate Professor with tenure at London Business School. Prof. Ioannou regularly publishes in top-tier peer-reviewed academic journals and due to the popularity and impact of his research, he regularly ranks in the top 100 authors on the social science research network (SSRN). Among other advisory roles, Prof. Ioannou is a member of the ESG Advisory Board of the DWS Group, and a member of the World Economic Forum Experts Network. Ioannis has recently successfully launched a 6-week online course on Sustainability Leader­ship and Corporate Responsibility (


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