Business & The Environment

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Digitizing Products for Sustainability’s Sake

Digitization opens opportunities for the world’s sustainability challenges, but it also transforms industries, holding out the possibility of dramatically improving their social and environmental performance. To capitalize on this development, an emerging area of opportunity is the digitization of physical products and production.

Driving Sustainability-Oriented Innovation

Faced with mounting challenges and pressure from governments, nongovernmental organizations, investors, and employees to be more aware of the environmental and social impacts of business activities, many companies are attempting to tap into the creativity and entrepreneurial potential of their employees, encouraging them to develop new products, services, or business models that create value for both the company and society.

Critical Questions Live: Is It up to Business to Save the Planet?

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Climate change is the existential threat of our time, but the U.S. government is abdicating its responsibility to address it. So, should business be taking the lead? Andrew Winston, author of The Big Pivot: Radically Practical Strategies for a Hotter, Scarcer, and More Open World, and Yossi Sheffi, Elisha Gray II Professor of Engineering Systems at MIT and Director of the MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics, take on the question.

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Explaining the Business Case for Sustainability Again … and Again … and Again

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The question “What’s the business case for sustainability?” has come roaring back over the last couple of years. It’s led, in part, by more intense investor focus on the issue: Financial execs are having to become more fluent in sustainability as investors grill them about how their companies are handling climate risks around supply chains and shifting regulatory landscapes and markets.

Blockchain and the Clean, Smart Grid

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Some techies think that blockchain and “tamperproof databases” will revolutionize more than money: A blockchain platform for the energy sector could accelerate the transition to renewables. Blockchain can help by making tracking energy more granular, automated, and trusted, which can allow companies to better verify claims of carbon neutrality. It could also streamline financing and insuring new energy projects and even help create a new kind of energy market.

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Using AI to Help the World Thrive

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It’s possible that humankind has created complex, systemic problems that exceed our human capacity to solve them. Some companies, particularly the tech giants, are recognizing this possibility and looking to AI as a tool for solving environmental and social problems. One of these companies is Microsoft. In December 2017, it committed $50 million to its new “AI for Earth” program to fund innovators who are making progress in four critical areas — climate change, water, agriculture, and biodiversity.

Digital Transformation on Purpose

As digital technology advances, the opportunity to use it to create a more sustainable, equitable world should not be overlooked. The first step: Define key terms and set up a framework for understanding how the digital revolution can also become a revolution for sustainable development.

Business Needs a Safety Net

As the effects of climate change become more prominent, business needs to grapple with its own attitudes toward government. A more destructive physical environment requires a more nuanced relationship in which government is viewed as a partner in enabling and supporting markets rather than as a regulator that needs to be managed.

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Focusing on What 90% of Businesses Do Now Is a Big Mistake

It’s not smart to base any part of your strategy on what you see in the rear-view mirror — and that’s particularly true when you develop strategies for navigating modern, thorny environmental and social challenges. The norms and expectations about how companies manage sustainability issues are shifting fast: Just six years ago, only 20% of the S&P 500 companies produced sustainability reports, while by 2016, 82% did. Change is coming to business — and executives need to adjust.

Six Reasons Why Companies Should Start Sharing Their Long-Term Thinking With Investors

Most CEOs have detailed long-term plans, which are often closely held secrets out of concern that competitive advantage may be undermined by detailed disclosure. Yet disclosing a long-term plan provides an opportunity to identify financially material sustainability issues and demonstrate how the company manages business-critical issues — information that’s valuable to investors.

Corporate Sustainability at a Crossroads

In the final report of our eight-year study of how corporations address sustainability, MIT Sloan Management Review and The Boston Consulting Group examine the crossroads at which sustainability now finds itself. Despite sociopolitical upheaval that threatens to reverse key gains, our research has shown that companies can develop workable — and profitable — sustainability strategies to reduce their impact on the global environment by incorporating eight key lessons.

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