Strategy

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The Insurance Industry’s Renewed Commitment to Sustainability

Insurers are just beginning to wake up to their role in environmental sustainability, argues Olivier Jaeggi, founder and managing partner at ECOFACT. The most important recent development: the launch of the Principles for Sustainable Insurance in 2012. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, wrote that the Principles provide “a framework for the global insurance industry to address environmental, social and governance risks and opportunities.”

Image courtesy of Flickr user tink tracy.
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Five Steps To Leading Change Successfully

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  • Read Time: 3 min 

Before making a change, you need to identify the influencers who can push the project forward — or who can cause it to stall. “Left unattended, skepticism, fear and panic can wreak havoc on any change process,” write Ellen R. Auster and Trish Ruebottom.

Their solution is a five-step, proactive process designed to help leaders navigate both the politics and the emotions that are churned up by heading in new directions. The steps include mapping the key stakeholders who will be affected by the change and involving the most influential of them.

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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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A Process of Continuous Innovation: Centralizing Analytics at Caesars

Over the past several years, Caesars has undergone a reorganization, in part to centralize its analytics functions. It has sought to build a deeper understanding not only of customers, but also of operations — everything from food and beverage analytics to labor analytics. Ruben Sigala, chief analytics officer at Caesars, talks with MIT Sloan Management Review contributing editor Renee Boucher Ferguson about that process, some valuable lessons learned, and where innovation and intuition play a role.

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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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The Executive’s Role in Social Business

A majority of respondents to a survey by MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte say that their companies’ social capabilities are at an early stage of developing social capabilities. However, executives are increasingly recognizing the value of social business to their organizations, and a majority of C-suite respondents believe that social business represents an opportunity to fundamentally change the way work gets done.

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Why Making Money Is Not Enough

The authors, who include Ratan Tata, the former chairman of the Tata Group, argue that that “it is possible to build and lead companies that retain a deeper purpose.” Tata calls for companies to launch “corporate lifeboats” — such as new business experiments in next-generation clean technologies and serious business initiatives in the underserved space at the “base of the pyramid” — to transform their operations for sustainability.

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The Trouble With Stock Compensation

Research suggests that paying outside board members with equity grants leads to companies with less socially responsible behavior. That’s the conclusion of Yuval Deutsch and Mike Valente (both of Schulich School of Business, York University), who looked at social performance ratings and director compensation data for more than 1,100 U.S. public companies between 1998 and 2006. “Our findings suggest that there is a need to investigate more creative compensation arrangements,” they write.

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Can High-Frequency Trading Drive the Stock Market Off a Cliff?

Much of the time, high-frequency trading firms play a benign role in financial markets. These firms use fully automated computer systems to buy and sell stocks very rapidly, making thin profits by being ahead of human orders. But in a nervous market with downward price pressure, high-frequency trading can create fierce volatility. A computer simulation of high-frequency trading behavior showed that a complex system “may turn into an unfamiliar monster when an invisible tipping point is passed.”

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Sustainable Finance: 7 Steps in Managing Reputational Risk

Financial institutions’ funding decisions makes them gatekeepers for sustainable development. But how do they develop the policies and procedures that will guide how they make decisions and satisfy stakeholders? According to Olivier Jaeggi of ECOFACT, effective decision-making for sustainability can be summed up in a set of seven best practices.

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New Energy Policies for the World’s Sixth Largest Bank

Crédit Agricole, the sixth largest bank in the world, puts its money where its principles are in its recently released social and environmental policies. In keeping with its stated policy of supporting projects that are “sustainably vitalizing,” the bank’s policies prohibit funding energy projects that rely heavily on unsustainable fuels.

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Competing in the Age of Omnichannel Retailing

Recent technology advances in mobile computing and augmented reality are blurring the boundaries between traditional and Internet retailing, enabling retailers to interact with consumers through multiple touch points and expose them to a rich blend of offline sensory information and online content. In response to these changes, retailers and their supply-chain partners will need to rethink their competitive strategies.

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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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How Analytics Can Transform Business Models

There are 52 million Latinos in the United States, with $1.5 trillion of purchasing power. Entravision Communications Corporation, a Spanish-language media company, reaches about 96% of that U.S. Latino audience through its television and radio stations and digital platforms. And it’s using that extraordinary reach to provide media solutions to marketers interested in tapping into the Latino consumer market.

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How Starbucks Has Gone Digital

  • Interview
  • Read Time: 15 min 

Starbucks chief digital officer Adam Brotman and chief information officer Curt Garner explain how they collaborate closely. The two constantly seek to improve customer experience through technology and to unify marketing efforts across channels. Their partnership has forged a fast-paced rollout of new digital efforts, from faster payment processing to mobile ordering, across Starbucks’ 17,000 stores.

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The Trouble With Too Much Board Oversight

The high-profile scandals of the late 1990s have increased the oversight duties of independent directors. Has the increased focus on board oversight improved the quality of board monitoring? And can board oversight become detrimental to desirable objectives? This article focuses on three aspects of oversight: design and implementation of suitable executive compensation packages; removal of underperforming CEOs; and disclosure of earnings that reflect the company’s true financial conditions.

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Bringing Opportunity Oversight Onto the Board’s Agenda

Boards have two broad responsibilities: overseeing the protection of existing value and creating new value. Even though most boards take growth seriously, in practice board oversight has become unbalanced. The imbalance between risk and opportunity is a potentially serious problem. Correcting the imbalance will require an active, constructive partnership between the board and senior leadership — and a board that understands how the company maintains a high level of value-creating performance.

Image courtesy of Flickr user BenLucier.

Optimizing Your Digital Business Model

A company’s digital business model describes how the enterprise interacts digitally with its customers to generate value. If you lack a good digital business model, your customers may leave you behind. This article presents a framework to help enterprises compete digitally with three capabilities: their content, customer experience and platform. The framework is illustrated with case studies of top performers like Amazon, Apple, LexisNexis and USAA and results from an effective practices survey.

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Video: Sustainability: The New Business Model Opportunities

Since 2010, MIT Sloan Management Review 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 video, David Kiron, executive editor at MIT SMR, and Eugene Goh, a principal with BCG, discuss highlights of the report and specific company examples.

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