Sustainability

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Video: Sustainability: The New Business Model Opportunities

Since 2010, MIT Sloan Management Review (MIT SMR) and The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) have been charting how organizations are responding to sustainability as a source of competitive advantage. This year we found that nearly 50 percent of companies have changed their business model because of sustainability opportunities. In this presentation, David Kiron, executive editor at MIT SMR, and Eugene Goh, a principal with BCG, cover highlights of the report and discuss specific company examples.

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The Innovation Bottom Line

This is the fourth annual research report jointly produced by MIT SMR and BCG on the connection between sustainability and business. This year’s report focuses on who is profiting from their sustainability practices and why. Overall, respondents reporting profit from sustainability went up by 23% to 37 percent of the total. As we explore in detail, business-model innovation is the crux of sustainability profits for a majority of companies.

Tom Falk, chairman and CEO of Kimberly-Clark

“We Learned How to Listen Better”

As Kimberly-Clark began down the path toward sustainability, it was confronted with layers of miscommunication between itself and environmental activists–not to mention a lack of real understanding among many of its customers and suppliers. Tom Falk, chairman and CEO of K-C, says that all that began to change as the company got better at listening.

Image courtesy of Greif.

The Benefits of Sustainability-Driven Innovation

Results from the fourth year of MIT SMR’s research collaboration with the Boston Consulting Group have found that managers who say sustainability has caused their organization to change its business model are also more likely to say that the organization’s sustainability activities have added to profits. Respondents to the survey who changed their business model also generated profits from their sustainability-related activities.

Image courtesy of AT&T.

Making Data Visible So You Can Act On It

At AT&T, John Schulz, a director of sustainability operations, had to make the company’s energy and water use data visible before the company could formulate a plan to reduce those numbers. The company’s definition has now broadened and evolved to include the social perspective on sustainability.

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New Ways to Engage Employees, Suppliers and Competitors in CSR

Timberland LLC, a global boot and outdoor apparel manufacturer, goes beyond simply telling the world about its sustainability work. According to Betsy Blaisdell, the company’s senior manager of environmental stewardship, it has creative new ways to involve employees and to partner with suppliers — and competitors. In this interview, Blaisdell talks about the environment “nutrition label” it’s developed for its footwear, and its partnership with 60 plus apparel and footwear brands, retailers, suppliers and NGOs (from Adidas to Patagonia to DuPont to the World Resources Institute) to develop an environmental index called the Higg Index.

Image courtesy of Flickr user John H Gray.
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Measuring Sustainability Is a Smart Move

Supply chain and freight transportation activities have a significant global footprint, and that footprint is only getting bigger. By 2020, over 90 million tons of freight a day is expected to move throughout the U.S., up 70 percent from 2002, according to the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). In its 2012 report “Smart Moves,” the nonprofit published a collection of innovative strategies to reduce emissions and costs. Many companies will want to follow their “Five Rules for a Carbon-efficient Supply Chain.”

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Why Kraft Foods Cares About Fair Trade Chocolate

As vice president for sustainability at Kraft Foods, Chris McGrath has been pivotal at guiding the company’s sustainability efforts. With its global reach and massive market shares, the company is setting new standards on how to source through sustainable agriculture and keep packaging out of landfills.

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A Hotter Climate Limits Growth

It seems pretty obvious that droughts and hot weather hurt agricultural output and growth, but MIT professor of economics Benjamin Olken asserts that even localized hot spells can significantly damage long-term economic growth in developing countries. In a recent paper published in the American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics, Olken and his colleagues found that every 1 degree Celsius increase in temperature in a poor country reduces economic growth by around 1.3 percentage points, and that higher temperatures also may reduce the rate of growth.

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How an “Abundance Mentality” and a CEO’s Fierce Resolve Kickstarted CSR at Campbell Soup

In his tenure as president and CEO of the Campbell Soup Company, Doug Conant first helped steer the company to financial stability, and then set the stage for aggressive sustainability goals. The notion of corporate social responsibility and sustainability has been part of the fabric of the Campbell Soup Company since its inception. By 2006, Conant was ready to kick it up a notch. As president and CEO (he retired last fall), Conant led the company in exploring “how we could bring what I call our DNA, our natural inclination to corporate social responsibility, to a new level.”

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How Dell Turned Bamboo and Mushrooms Into Environmental-Friendly Packaging

At Dell, the sustainability team, working with suppliers and recyclers, has developed new compostable packaging materials made from bamboo and mushrooms. As John Pflueger, Principal Environmental Strategist, says, “It’s absolutely amazing.” Long a “pain point” for customers, the new lighter and compostable packaging is a big step forward, improving many sustainability metrics.

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Marks and Spencer’s Emerging Business Case for Sustainability

Marks and Spencer’s business case for sustainability is built around its five year old Plan Plan A, a commitment to tangible steps to make the company more sustainable. T-shirts for associates featured the slogan, “There is no Plan B.” Plan A includes 180 commitments. All to be achieved by 2015. Their ultimate goal is to become the world’s most sustainable major retailer.

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Leverage Points for Creating a Sustainable World

If political and ideological boundaries really are “invisible fences in the mind,” as MIT Sloan professor John Sterman puts it, then what kind of image of how the world works will best serve us as we think about issues of economic growth? These are some of the questions that MIT Sloan’s Jason Jay raised in a thought-provoking presentation at the Dynamics of Globalization Executive Education program held at MIT on June 13-14.

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