Strategy Forum / Panelist

Caroline Flammer

School of International and Public Affairs

Columbia University

United States

Caroline Flammer is a professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University. She is an expert in sustainable investing and the recipient of numerous prestigious awards. Her research examines how, and under which conditions, firms can enhance their competitiveness and long-term profitability while strengthening‚ instead of undermining‚ the very system in which they operate and hereby play a critical role in addressing climate change, inequality, global health, and other grand challenges related to society and the natural environment. The Web of Science ranked her among the top 100 Highly Cited Researchers in the economics and business profession in terms of impact over the past 10 years.

Voting History

Statement Response
Sanctions against Russia will cause multinational companies to consider human rights protections in supply chains more broadly. Disagree “I don’t think it is the sanctions per se but rather the war itself that will make companies revisit their supply chains with respect to human rights issues when sourcing from conflict zones. I doubt that this will extend to other human rights issues in supply chains (such as child labor, sweatshops, etc.).”
The field of strategic management has overlooked the role of corporate purpose in driving business performance. Strongly disagree “The study of corporate purpose, and the extent to which it affects business performance, has a long tradition in the strategic management literature and related fields. As my friend and coauthor Tima Bansal noted in a recent Forbes article, “Corporate purpose isn’t just about vision and values, it’s about keeping an eye on the long term.” Here is a shout out to Tima Bansal, Alex Edmans, Ed Freeman, Claudine Gartenberg, Andrea Prat, George Serafeim, Sandra Waddock, Luigi Zingales, and many other members of the Alliance for Research on Corporate Sustainability (ARCS), Organizations and the Natural Environment (ONE), Social Issues Management (SIM), and Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) — academic communities that have all contributed to studying this question.”
Socially responsible mutual funds are more of a marketing tool than a solution to environmental and social problems. Disagree “Socially responsible mutual funds can help improve social and environmental outcomes. That said, this market is subject to greenwashing concerns, due to the lack of proper mechanisms (e.g., regulations or certification) that would mitigate the risk of greenwashing. Certification could be an important way to alleviate this concern. It seems to be effective for other financial instruments. In a recent article, “Corporate Green Bonds,” published in the Journal of Financial Economics, I found that companies improved their environmental footprint following the issuance of green bonds but only when the bond’s greenness was certified by independent third parties. Arguably, similar mechanisms could help improve the credibility (and viability) of socially responsible mutual funds.”
When hackers take data hostage, companies should pay the ransom. Disagree “Paying the ransom would likely encourage future attacks. Moreover, once the data are compromised, there is no guarantee that the data will not be misused. Rather, companies should have protocols in place to respond to the incident (e.g., by taking measures to mitigate any harmful use of the data). Importantly, companies should be proactive and take effective measures to prevent data hacking in the first place.”
Relaxing the rules around physical presence in the office will improve employee productivity and firm performance. Disagree “Whether or not increased flexibility around physical presence in the office has positive implications for employee productivity and firm performance likely depends on multiple factors, including employees’ intrinsic motivation, their life situation, the nature of their work, the workplace culture, the extent to which managers and employees can effectively communicate in hybrid formats, among others. Ultimately, some activities are better suited than others for a home office. The challenge is to strike the right balance in finding the most effective work arrangement depending on the specific activity.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has permanently changed how companies should think about business strategy. Disagree “Should the pandemic have triggered companies to permanently change how they think about business strategy? Yes. Has it? Unlikely. Plus, the current pandemic is one among several other system-level crises that the (business) world is facing. Others include climate change, social injustice, and poverty, to name a few. To sustain their competitiveness and profitability in the long run, companies need to move away from merely reacting to such crises and instead adopt a system-level approach in their business strategy — a strategy that helps address these grand societal challenges and thereby strengthens the very system in which companies operate.”