Business & The Environment

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To Conserve Water for Agriculture, a Solution from the Desert

Both economic and climate change have brought increasing concerns about agriculture — particularly with respect to water. Farmers worldwide are beginning to explore ways to stretch what may become an increasingly limited resource. In a conversation with MIT SMR’s Nina Kruschwitz, Netafim’s chief sustainability officer Naty Barak explains how his company’s origins in arid-zone agriculture in 1965 became a springboard to a wider market for agricultural producers to maximize water efficiency — and how the company’s partnerships with NGOs seeks to bring the technology to small farmers in the developing world.

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Why It Pays to Become a Rule Maker

Managers in some leading companies have pioneered a new approach to sustainability. In this approach, businesses have the potential to be rule makers as well as players in establishing environmental regulations. “There is an expression in Washington,” says DuPont’s Michael Parr, “that it is better to be at the table than on the menu.” Indeed, by engaging with government on the structure of the phaseout of air conditioning chemicals, DuPont helped bring an end to one profitable product life cycle and spawn another.

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Are Firms and Managers At Risk When Contributing to Climate Change?

At what point do corporate executives become personally liable for their companies’ failure to take action on climate change? This question is moving into focus as more company executives are being held accountable for business practices and decisions that harm the public. Climate activists look at precedents in the tobacco industry and asbestos manufacturing as the potential basis of legal action against the fossil fuel industry’s leadership.

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Asia Pulp & Paper and Greenpeace: Building New Directions, Together

When two organizations are on opposite ends of the spectrum with regard to sustainability issues, it may seem like there’s no hope of ever reaching agreement. Such was the case when Greenpeace and Asia Pulp sat down to negotiate a truce after Greenpeace’s hard-hitting campaign to change Asia Pulp’s forestry practices, which Greenpeace saw as destroying endangered rainforest habitat. But as Asia Pulp’s Aida Greenbury explains, it’s possible even for two polar opposites to find areas of common ground and work together for sustainable business practices.

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No Free Market for Energy

The idea that energy is a “free-market good” is a myth that needs to be abandoned. Subsidies for energy exist for good reason. The authors argue that in order to wean ourselves off hydrocarbon dependence, U.S. and global policies that subsidize oil and gas production at higher rates than renewable energy production need to be changed to reduce the bias in favor of hydrocarbons.

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Mobilizing the Insurgency

The sustainability director’s goal? Empower allies inside of companies to link social intelligence with their job responsibilities and the company’s overall sustainability strategy. In the third installment of the series on corporate social responsibility insurgencies, Gregory Unruh examines how managers offer leadership in establishing and nurturing sustainability projects — and culture — in their companies.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Nicolas Keller.
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How Nonprofit Organizations Use Reputational Risk Management

When an organization’s mission and message are about helping those in need, it may be hard to imagine any reputational risk associated with their enterprise. The surprising reality: nonprofit groups are building reputational risk management systems because they meet challenges to their missions very similar to those faced by private-sector companies — and reputation is everything.

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Sustainability Redefined: Setting a Goal of a Flourishing World

Business has gotten the message that the world’s resources aren’t unlimited. But, argues John Ehrenfeld, it has missed the corollary that growth can’t be unlimited if resources aren’t. Ehrenfeld argues that using growth as the basis for sustainability is a mistake — and proposes an alternative metric.

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Old Industry, New Tech: Domtar’s Focus on Sustainability

Montréal-based Domtar Corporation brands itself “The Sustainable Paper Company” and is fast becoming a wood fiber innovation engine using sustainability as the foundation of its business transformation. In this interview, David Struhs, the company’s vice president of sustainability, talks about the new manufacturing technologies that are changing the paper industry, the role that co-generation plays in the company’s operation and the new market niches they’re pursuing.

Typhoon Saomai swirls in the Pacific Ocean east of Taiwan and the Philippines.

How Serious Is Climate Change to Business?

The fifth annual global executive survey about sustainability and innovation conducted by MIT Sloan Management Review and the Boston Consulting Group suggests that climate change has yet to become a very urgent issue for most companies — and that only a minority of companies are preparing for its effects. In a preview of our upcoming report (due out in the fourth quarter of 2013) we present six charts that provide a snapshot of report statistics.

Image courtesy of Flickr user lowjumpingfrog

The Sweet Spot of Sustainability Strategy

Today’s fringe issues in the sustainability world often become tomorrow’s mainstream and generic market expectations, writes Gregory Unruh of George Mason University. Between these two extremes lies a third territory, which Unruh calls “strategic.” “It is in this strategic territory that proactive companies have the best opportunity to influence the sustainability standards for their industry,” he writes.

Hans Jôhr. Nestlè. Corporate Head of Agriculture.Foto:  Toini Lindroos

Creating Shared Value at Nestlé

Hans Joehr, Nestlé’s corporate head of agriculture, is responsible for providing technical and strategic leadership for Nestlé’s worldwide agricultural material supply chain. One of the ways Nestlé accomplishes its goals is by providing agricultural “extension services” for the hundreds of thousands of rural farmers who are its suppliers. It’s all part of the company’s Creating Shared Value (CSV) approach to business, a process that seeks to create value for shareholders while also ensuring the company creates value for the communities in which they operate.

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Sustainability? Don’t Go It Alone

At the Sustainable Brands seventh annual community in June, a key theme was succinctly framed by Sally Uren, acting chief executive, Forum for the Future: “pioneering companies are hitting the limits of what they can do alone.” To address sustainability-related issues, a growing number of companies are becoming more collaborative. Not merely with suppliers, but with competitors as well. The complexity of business problems connected with sustainability is demanding collective action.

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Insuring a Better Future: Sustainability at Swiss Re

As climate change progresses, the risk of financial and personal losses related to extreme weather events such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, heat waves, and droughts grows greater. Insurers and reinsurers must take these risks seriously, and for some companies, that means advocating strategies to help business and society mitigate the effects — and reduce the causes — of climate change. MIT Sloan Management Review’s Nina Kruschwitz spoke with David Bresch, Head of Sustainability at Swiss Re, about his company’s efforts to address the complex problem of climate change risk.

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Mitigation or Adaptation? Lessons from Abolition in the Battle Over Climate Policy

Although both mitigation and adaptation are needed to address climate change risks, says MIT professor John Sterman, adapting to climate change may be taking resources that could be better spent on mitigation and prevention. We have the ingenuity to successfully tackle this complex issue, and can look at the lessons learned from the abolition of slavery to help guide us.

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Choosing the Right Eco-Label for Your Product

With over 435 eco-label programs worldwide, how can companies avoid betting on the wrong one? Authors Magali A. Delmas (UCLA Anderson School of Management), Nicholas Nairn-Birch (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) and Michaela Balzarova (Lincoln University) detail a three-part framework for companies to use. The framework evaluates eco-labels along three dimensions: consumer understanding and awareness, consumer confidence and willingness to pay.

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A View from the Peak: Balancing Our Carbon Budget

Earlier this year, the financial services company HSBC came out with a report in which their analysts calculated that taking climate change seriously could cut share prices of major oil companies by up to 60%. That report, Peak Planet: The next upswing for the climate agenda, held some sobering news for business. Now that it has been made freely available on the company’s website, executives concerned with managing risks may want to read it.

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Managing Risks, Creating Opportunities from Ecosystem Change

Most businesses depend on ecosystem services somewhere in their supply chain. Most don’t fully recognize the risk that environmental degradation poses to business. However, the Corporate Ecosystem Services Review 2.0 tool offers a 5-step process that helps managers develop strategies to deal with the risks — and opportunities — that develop from ecosystem changes.

Showing 1-20 of 54