Change and Sustainability Conference

May 9-10, 2013


Business & Environment

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Welcome to the Change and Sustainability Conference


Change and Sustainability Conference
Responding effectively to the challenge of sustainability: Exploring the state of the art in organizational and strategic change as a catalyst for large-scale transformation.

Hosts: Ranjay Gulati, Rebecca Henderson, Michael Tushman    

This conference has two goals. The first is to bring together some of the world’s leading scholars of organizational change to summarize our current understanding as to how significant organizational and strategic change is accomplished. The second is to explore whether what we know might be useful to firms who are struggling with the challenge of embracing sustainability – broadly defined – as a central strategic imperative.  

A critically important problem  

The challenge of sustainability is increasingly becoming a mainstream business issue. McKinsey's focus on the "resource revolution" is symptomatic of a broadening understanding that firms can no longer take either supplies of cheap raw materials or the easy disposal of waste for granted. Many firms are focusing on the risks inherent in ignoring the social, political and regulatory shifts that may shape the business environment in unexpected ways as environmental problems become increasingly pressing and social structures around the world come under stress, while some firms see the opportunity to significantly differentiate themselves from their competitors by creating entirely new business models to address the challenges we face.  

Reimagining sustainability as a central strategic issue for the firm is, however, easier to talk about than to do. Every significant strategic shift of the last fifty years – from analog to digital, from local to global, from systems to products – has encountered the classic impediments to change – from the concern that "it won’t work" and "it isn't happening" to "we won't make any money from it" and "we don't have either the bandwidth or the people to get it done". Moreover reshaping our commercial infrastructure to be more sustainable is as much a challenge for entire industries and their associated ecosystems as it is for individual firms. This is change on steroids – and it needs to happen at a time when nearly every firm is facing significant challenges to their existing business. Practitioners charged with making this happen are reaching out to the academy to ask what we know about these kinds of moments, and how we might be able to help.