Sustainability

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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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Sustainability Goals — Thinking About What Works and What Doesn’t

New research shows which sustainability practices have a statistically significant impact on the overall success of the sustainable value-chain — suppliers, distributors, and partners — initiatives measured, their cost savings, and their revenue impact. The leading practices that showed particular effectiveness were clustered around three areas: engagement, goals and standards, and outside expertise. Managers should focus on the practices that are proven to work, and stop wasting their efforts on reinventing the wheel.

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The Net Positive Strategy: Where Environmental Stewardship Meets Business Innovation

Nick Folland of Kingfisher, one of Europe’s largest home-improvement retailers, discusses the company’s aspirations to create a net positive impact on the environment. Kingfisher was the first business of its size to receive full certification from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Folland, the group corporate affairs director of Net Positive, is leading the company’s groundbreaking collaborative effort to reduce consumption and introduce “closed-loop” products.

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How Caesars Entertainment Is Betting on Sustainability

Caesars Entertainment uses a scorecard to guide managers in its sustainability efforts. Developing the right scorecard took time, but it gave corporate managers an opening for sustainability discussions. Numbers also showed that the more information hotel and casino guests had about the things the company was doing to reduce energy consumption, recycle waste and rebuild the local community, the better they felt about the company — and the more inclined they were to visit again.

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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.

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A New Mix: More Sustainable Beer from Better Water Practices

It’s only natural that a beer company would be concerned about water. It takes five liters of water, on average, to manufacture one liter of beer. When SABMiller mapped its water footprint and found that it took 45 liters of water to produce one liter of its beer in the Czech Republic, and 155 liters in South Africa, the company changed its water practices to make its beer more sustainable. An interview with SABMiller’s senior vice president of sustainable development explains how they did it.

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Designing for Resilience

Designing for resilience can ensure that critical systems continue to operate despite increasing threats. The focus of any organization concerned with resilience should be on whatever assures the continuity of business operations and the systems in which they’re embedded. By defining a critical system — its components, boundaries, and functions — managers can begin to use “what-if” scenarios to determine which components, or combination of components, are most vulnerable.

Robin Chase

How Next-Gen Car Sharing Will Transform Transportation

In communities where residents can join networks to share cars, people save money, emissions go down, parking spaces free up, and companies doing the coordinating make money. In this conversation with former Zipcar CEO Robin Chase she talks about her new venture, Buzzcar, another car-sharing business. The company calls this peer-to-peer car rental, and has taglines that include “Borrow the car next door” and “fewer cars, more options & the money stays in the ‘hood.’”

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Communicating Corporate Social Responsibility to a Cynical Public

Companies are increasingly engaging in CSR activities. But unless companies communicate their CSR achievements wisely to stakeholders, they fear being accused of greenwashing. A study of CSR communication practices in 251 European corporations yields seven guidelines for effective CSR communication. The authors conclude that many beliefs about the risks associated with CSR communication are exaggerated, and that companies that communicate honestly about their activities have little to fear.

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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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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.

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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.

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What the Future May Bring

Many authors writing about the future dismiss contrary opinions, striving with provocative titles such as The End of History and the Last Man (by Francis Fukuyama) or The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology (by Ray Kurzweil) to persuade readers that the future they envision is not only plausible but inevitable. Jorgen Randers foregoes this temptation in his new book, 2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years (White River Junction, Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing, 2012).

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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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