Being sustainable is a sign of leadership and innovation, according to the 2010 Colmar Brunton Better Business Better World survey.

The survey found six in 10 Kiwis think only the most innovative and progressive businesses take sustainability seriously, and a similar number of us want to work for a company that's environmentally and socially responsible.

Consumers overwhelmingly want businesses to share more about what they're doing in terms of sustainability, and to involve their staff and customers.

The challenge is to keep it simple and engaging - more than three in four say the way companies talk about their social and environmental commitments is hard to understand.

Method, the personal care and home cleaning products manufacturer, is a good example of a sustainability story that's resonating with consumers around the world.

It's one of the fastest growing private companies in the United States, and living proof that sustainability can be fun. It's "set out to save the world with an entire line of home care products more powerful than a bottle of sodium hypochlorite, gentler than a thousand puppy licks, and able to detox tall homes in a single afternoon". Their "best smellers" clean like heck and smell like heaven, while "putting the hurt on dirt in every room of the house", and they've enrolled a global online community of "people against dirty" in their crusade.

There's a growing appreciation among Kiwis that sustainable products and services are just as good as others and, as long as you can stack up on both quality and price, you'd be hard pressed to find a better growth opportunity in these times.

Most importantly, we're keen to put our money where our mouth is. Almost nine in 10 of us want to buy from "green" businesses, and almost half are planning to increase our spend on ethically, socially and environmentally friendly products and services in the next year.

The concern is all this desire may go unfulfilled, because few categories offer an obvious choice for consumers.

When asked to name a brand within New Zealand or around the world we see as a leader in sustainability, 72 per cent of us couldn't think of anyone.

For brands the lesson is clear: Sustainability is a significant opportunity for building leadership and innovation credentials in virtually every category.

If you're authentic about it, and truly "deep green" on the inside, then a sustainable positioning can add real depth and meaning to your brand or business. Your customers will want to hear your story, and come along on the journey.

You'll be giving them a powerful reason to choose you, and they'll reward you with their loyalty and commitment - just as long as it doesn't cost them any more in terms of money or time.

Jacqueline Ireland, Colmar Brunton