LONDON, June 18 (Reuters) - Decisions based on sustainability need to offer financial returns to ensure they attract investors, Danone finance chief Juergen Esser told Reuters.

Esser's comments are a departure from those of other executives in the industry who have tended to gloss over the need for sustainable strategies to deliver financial returns.

While they have won support from some shoppers, they have increasingly drawn criticism from investors.

Danone's efforts to be more sustainable include changing the way it runs its facilities to reduce energy consumption, Esser said in an interview with Reuters on the sidelines of the Responsible Business conference in London.

He said that had led to "a significant payback" for Danone, but declined to give details.

“On top of that, it drives competitive advantage: it allows us to come to our customers and partners and say: 'you asked us to help you to decarbonise – here this product is now with 20% less carbon emissions," Esser added.

From restaurants to retailers, companies are racing to cut emissions in their third-party supply chains, known as scope 3 emissions, and meet lofty sustainability goals. These companies rely on the consumer firms that supply them with food and other goods to help them meet these targets.

"The reality is you need to find a different way to create an incentive to invest into sustainability," Esser said. "There’s no other way to do it without competitive edge. Because investors do not compromise on financial returns.”

Janus Henderson, portfolio manager Robert Schramm-Fuchs, said he agreed with Esser's position.

"Things are not sustainable if there's not a positive commercial impact behind it," Schramm-Fuchs said.

"If you do things that put your company in a disadvantaged position, others will take market share - your employees, your stakeholders will lose to outsiders. There's no point in doing things to disadvantage your company competitively."

Danone is hosting an investor conference in Amsterdam on Wednesday and Thursday to discuss topics including its sustainability measures with shareholders. (Reporting by Richa Naidu; editing by Barbara Lewis)