Sustainability

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Human Rights: The Next Frontier

It is becoming more and more commonplace for companies to take human rights into account when sourcing materials or manufacturing processes. Guest blogger Olivier Jaeggi of ECOFACT explains why this trend has significance for sustainability — and how corporate standards are increasingly taking the position that paying attention to human rights is a necessity for companies’ risk management strategy, rather than an act of good will.

Photo credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Image News/Thinkstock
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Is Hostility to Blame for Sustainability’s Leadership Gap?

When a conservative think-tank challenged Apple’s sustainability programs at a recent shareholder meeting, CEO Tim Cook didn’t back down, refusing to bow to its calls to suspend any activities that didn’t “add to the bottom line.” Apple’s shareholders rewarded him with resounding support. If sustainability is to increase its profile as a business priority, more executives will need to follow Cook’s lead.

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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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Sustainability’s Next Frontier

In this 2013 report, new research by MIT Sloan Management Review and The Boston Consulting Group looks at companies that “walk the talk” in addressing significant sustainability concerns. So-called “Walkers” focus heavily on five fronts: sustainability strategy, business case, measurement, business model innovation and leadership commitment. For them, addressing significant sustainability issues has become a core strategic imperative and a way to mitigate threats and identify new opportunities.

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Delivering on the Promise of Green Logistics

The best way to reduce emissions and cut costs is to transport goods efficiently. So why aren’t more companies taking the steps that would get them there? In a set of three case studies, one of the key obstacle becomes clear: implementing logistics strategies to reduce emissions requires significant internal and external collaboration between companies, suppliers, and shippers. But as these case studies prove, undertaking complicated process changes can also produce significant rewards.

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Bringing Sustainability Metrics to Purchasing Decisions

When hotel chain Hilton Worldwide looked at supply chain sustainability, it lacked tools to help weigh sustainability factors. Hilton partnered with sustainability consultant BSR to create the Center for Sustainable Procurement. In this interview with MIT SMR’s David Kiron, Hilton’s VP of supply management William Kornegay and Eric Olson of BSR discuss how the initiative evolved.

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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.

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Surprising Insights from Environmental Screenings

In the past decade, packaging supplier Greif, Inc. found its key industrial customers demanding more environmentally friendly products. Customers wanted environmental information, such as greenhouse gas emissions data, on Greif products. Greif turned to life-cycle assessment studies on core products such as steel, plastic and fiber containers to respond to the market and identify areas for improvement — and what they found surprised them.

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Does Your Company Seem Socially Irresponsible?

Public perceptions of corporate irresponsibility are shaped in subjective, yet predictable, ways. “People like tidy stories with a clear villain,” write Nathan T. Washburn of Thunderbird School of Global Management and Donald Lange of the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. “We lose interest when there are too many factors, extra complexity or too much ambiguity.” That means that powerful negative images can be hard to respond to.

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.

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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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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.”

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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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