Sustainability takes many forms and it’s about more than just being green – it’s now about viability, e-commerce firm Rakuten believes.

“It’s also making sure you treat people with respect and equality,” according to Mark Haviland, EVP Brand Development & Sustainability at the platform. “And you have a transparency and integrity in the way that you manage them.”

In corporate terms, CSR is dead, ESG is the new king: environmental issues, social issues and governance issues.

“ESG really defines the sustainability of a business,” he said at the recent DMEXCO conference. “And sustainability equals viability, not just being green.” (For more details, read WARC’s report: The Rakuten guide to sustainability.)

Nor is this some fluffy idea, he added. “ESG reporting now represents about a third of all assets under management.

“The financial institutions, the big ones – the pension funds, the sovereign wealth funds – they are looking at their investments and asking ‘Are they viable, environmentally, socially and from a governance perspective? If not, then we move our money’.”

If that’s a major push from the investment side, he argued there’s no less of a push from the consumer side and the technological side which can’t be ignored. Do that and you won’t survive as a company, he stated, but “on the opposite side, you will grow faster if you have sustainability built in”.

There’s also the recent shift in thinking that has challenged the primacy of shareholder value as the purpose of an enterprise. The Business Roundtable, a group of chief executive officers of nearly 200 major US corporations, this summer said that investing in employees, delivering value to customers, dealing ethically with suppliers and supporting outside communities are now at the forefront of American business goals.

“If you focus on shareholders, you fail all your stakeholders,” Haviland pointed out, adding that a wider view is something that B Corporations already do.

They are “a fantastic example of progressive, profitable, fast-growing businesses”, he said, which take the interests of all stakeholders into account.

Sourced from WARC, CNBC