Business and Environment

Business and Environment is a featured research topic and an initiative at Harvard Business School.
 
The vital connection between the natural environment and the business world has long been a central focus of our research at HBS – from Richard Vietor’s study of business-government relations in U.S. energy policy in the 1980’s to Michael Porter’s new concept of the relationship between the environment and competition in the 1990’s. Today, our faculty members focus on corporate environmental strategy, operations and reporting; sustainable cities and infrastructure; the role of government and environmental policy; clean energy generation and demand-side energy efficiency; and the effective management of natural resources essential to human prosperity.
  1. The Climate Custodians

    Robert G. Eccles and Tim Youmans

    Can custody banks become key players in climate change? Custody banks joining the battle against climate change will signal a significant shift in governance ideology for this highly regulated industry so critical to the global financial system. While global custody banks provide the unseen but essential support system that ensures the proper functioning of the capital markets, they have great untapped potential to become change-makers in climate change. This paper expands on our idea of the "Climate Custodians" first presented in the MIT Sloan Management Review within the governance context of the "Statement of Significant Audiences and Materiality (The Statement)" for these subsidiaries of large bank holding companies. By focusing on the Big Three global custody banks — State Street, BNY Mellon, and JPMorgan Chase — we make the case for large custody banks assuming the role of climate custodians. In this role, these banks would report, among other things, a measure of carbon embedded within their institutional clients’ assets under custody to help clients understand the climate risk in their portfolios.

    Citation:

    Eccles, Robert G., and Tim Youmans. "The Climate Custodians." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 16-138, June 2016. View Details
  2. Entrepreneurs and the Co-Creation of Ecotourism in Costa Rica

    Geoffrey Jones and Andrew Spadafora

    Between the 1970s and the 2000s Costa Rica became established as the world’s leading ecotourism destination. This working paper suggests that although Costa Rica benefited from biodiversity and a pleasant climate, the country’s preeminence in ecotourism requires more than a natural resource endowment explanation. The paper argues that the ecotourism industry was a co-creation of the public, private, and tertiary sectors. While the role of the government and conservation NGOs is acknowledged in the existing literature, this study draws attention to the critical role of small entrepreneurs. Making extensive use of oral history, the working paper demonstrates the role of tour companies in drawing affluent Western ecotourists to the country, and of the creators of ecolodges and other forms of accommodation in providing them with somewhere to stay. These entrepreneurs, many of them expatriate Americans, helped ensure that formally protected areas remained sustainable parks and reserves, by providing revenues, education in conservation to tourists, and community development and jobs. Clustering created positive externalities for new entrepreneurs to enter the industry, who could also learn from knowledge spillovers. There were downsides to the new industry, however. The creation of the national image of a natural paradise enabled many businesses which were not environmentally sustainable to free-ride on the green image. Even values-driven ecotourism entrepreneurs faced questions about their impact as they expanded the scale of their operations. While scaling was a sign of success and delivered many benefits to Costa Rica, there were distinct drawbacks from a sustainability perspective.

    Keywords: tourism; Latin America; business history; sustainable strategy; sustainability; nonprofit; entrepreneurs; environment; Entrepreneurship; History; Tourism Industry; Costa Rica;

    Citation:

    Jones, Geoffrey, and Andrew Spadafora. "Entrepreneurs and the Co-Creation of Ecotourism in Costa Rica." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 16-136, June 2016. View Details
  3. The Power of C.E.O. Activism: How Politically Outspoken Executives Sway Public (and Consumer) Opinion

    Aaron K. Chatterji and Michael W. Toffel

    Some CEOs are making news by taking public stances on controversial social issues largely unrelated to their core business. This article summarizes the insights from our research paper that shows that such "CEO activism" can influence public opinion and consumer attitudes.

    Keywords: leadership; Leadership &Corporate Accountability; Non-market Strategy; corporate social responsibility; politics; political influence; political strategy; political risk; equity; gender; climate change; Communication Strategy; Law; Leadership; Brands and Branding; Media; Problems and Challenges; Civil Society or Community; Social Issues; Public Opinion; United States; Georgia (state, US); North Carolina; Indiana; Indianapolis;

    Citation:

    Chatterji, Aaron K., and Michael W. Toffel. "The Power of C.E.O. Activism: How Politically Outspoken Executives Sway Public (and Consumer) Opinion." Grey Matter. New York Times (April 3, 2016), SR10. View Details
  4. The Globalization of Corporate Environmental Disclosure: Accountability or Greenwashing

    Christopher Marquis, Michael W. Toffel and Yanhua Zhou

    This article is a layman summary of "Scrutiny, Norms, and Selective Disclosure: A Global Study of Greenwashing," forthcoming in Organization Science.

    Keywords: reporting; environmental performance; environmental sustainability; civil society; Corporate Disclosure; Integrated Corporate Reporting; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Civil Society or Community; Environmental Sustainability;

    Citation:

    Marquis, Christopher, Michael W. Toffel, and Yanhua Zhou. "The Globalization of Corporate Environmental Disclosure: Accountability or Greenwashing." Work In Progress (American Sociological Association blog) (March 22, 2016). https://workinprogress.oowsection.org/2016/03/22/the-globalization-of-corporate-environmental-disclosure-accountability-or-greenwashing/View Details
  5. Do CEO Activists Make a Difference? Evidence from a Field Experiment

    Aaron K Chatterji and Michael W. Toffel

    Several CEOs are receiving significant media attention for taking public positions on controversial social and environmental issues largely unrelated to their core business, ranging from LGBT rights to race relations to gender equality to climate change. We provide the first evidence that such "CEO activism" can influence public opinion and consumer attitudes. Our field experiment examines the impact of Apple CEO Tim Cook’s public statements opposing a pending religious freedom law that critics warned would allow discrimination against same-sex couples. Our results confirm the influence of issue framing on public opinion and suggest that CEOs can sway public opinion, potentially to the same extent as prominent politicians. Moreover, Cook’s CEO activism increased consumer intentions to purchase Apple products, especially among proponents of same-sex marriage.

    Keywords: politics; policy; policy-making; corporate social responsibility; lobbying; campaign contributions; regulation; Leadership; Policy; Ethics; Governance; Social Issues; United States;

    Citation:

    Chatterji, Aaron K., and Michael W. Toffel. "Do CEO Activists Make a Difference? Evidence from a Field Experiment." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 16-100, March 2016. (Revised June 2016.) View Details
  6. Voluntary, Self-Regulatory and Mandatory Disclosure of Oil and Gas Company Payments to Foreign Governments

    Paul M. Healy and George Serafeim

    Transparency advocates argue that disclosure of oil and gas company payments to host governments for natural resources is a public good, helping to reduce corruption and increase accountability in resource rich countries. Yet we find a very low frequency of voluntary disclosures of payments to host governments by oil and gas firms, and negative stock price reactions for affected firms at the announcement of regulations mandating disclosure. This suggests that sample firm managers and their investors perceive that there are private costs of such voluntary disclosures, contributing to continued low transparency and weak governance in resource rich countries. However, we document that industry self-regulation has generated information to substitute for the gap in voluntary company disclosure. We also find some evidence that these disclosures are accompanied by lower country corruption ratings, suggesting that collective action may be an effective way for the industry to manage the private costs of disclosure and respond to public pressure to improve governance in resource rich countries.

    Keywords: transparency; regulation; industry self-regulation; disclosure; accountability; competition; Competition; Corporate Accountability; Corporate Disclosure;

    Citation:

    Healy, Paul M., and George Serafeim. "Voluntary, Self-Regulatory and Mandatory Disclosure of Oil and Gas Company Payments to Foreign Governments." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 16-099, March 2016. View Details
  7. Scrutiny, Norms, and Selective Disclosure: A Global Study of Greenwashing

    Christopher Marquis, Michael W. Toffel and Yanhua Zhou

    Under increased pressure to report environmental impacts, some firms selectively disclose relatively benign impacts, creating an impression of transparency while masking their true performance. We identify key company- and country-level factors that limit firms' use of selective disclosure by intensifying scrutiny on them and by diffusing global norms to their headquarters' countries. We test our hypotheses using a novel panel dataset of 4,750 public companies across many industries and headquartered in 45 countries during 2004–2007. Results show that firms that are more environmentally damaging, particularly those in countries where they are more exposed to scrutiny and global norms, are less likely to engage in selective disclosure. We discuss contributions to the literature that spans institutional theory and strategic management and to the literature on information disclosure.

    Keywords: disclosure strategy; disclosure; environmental performance; environmental strategy; environment; symbolic; reporting; Corporate Disclosure; Integrated Corporate Reporting; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact;

    Citation:

    Marquis, Christopher, Michael W. Toffel, and Yanhua Zhou. "Scrutiny, Norms, and Selective Disclosure: A Global Study of Greenwashing." Organization Science 27, no. 2 (March–April 2016): 483–504. (Formerly titled "When Do Firms Greenwash? Corporate Visibility, Civil Society Scrutiny, and Environmental Disclosure.") View Details
  8. Nuclear Energy: An Answer to Climate Change?

    Michael W. Toffel, Glen W. S. Dowell and James Weber

    Environmental activist groups have traditionally opposed nuclear energy. However, the growing environmental problems associated with global climate change require major changes to reduce the carbon intensity of electricity generation. Should environmental groups reverse course and support the construction of new nuclear plants—using technology that could be rapidly deployed at scale—to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are causing global climate change?

    Keywords: nuclear energy; nuclear power; climate change; safety; activism; Energy; Energy Generation; Environmental Sustainability; Non-Governmental Organizations; Non-Renewable Energy; Energy Industry; United States;

    Citation:

    Toffel, Michael W., Glen W. S. Dowell, and James Weber. "Nuclear Energy: An Answer to Climate Change?" Harvard Business School Case 616-052, February 2016. View Details
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