Business and Environment

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, with depleting natural resources, growing pollution, and other environmental challenges reaching crisis levels worldwide, our faculty members are joining forces with peers from across HBS and Harvard University to study how to develop environmentally sustainable business models that create both shareholder value and social value. We are focusing on the following areas:
  • 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
  • The effective management of natural resources essential to human prosperity
The interdisciplinary nature of our research enables our faculty to study the field of business and the environment from various angles as we draw on a wide range of unique perspectives. For example, Robert Eccles of the Organizational Behavior unit collaborated with George Serafeim of Accounting and Management to analyze sustainability reporting standards. As another example, focusing on the importance of innovation to the environment, Entrepreneurial Management professors Joseph Lassiter, Ramana Nanda, and Michael Roberts investigated the $38 billion of stimulus funding aimed at developing U.S. clean technology, while Mike Toffel of the Technology and Operations Management unit identified circumstances when the private sector rather than government can effectively monitor environmental performance. As our research contributes new insights, we are getting closer to understanding how business can help address the world’s looming and current environmental crises, and foster a more sustainable future for both business and society.
  1. Promoting Corporate Sustainability through Integrated Reporting: The Role of Investment Fiduciaries and the Responsibilities of the Corporate Board

    This book is a comprehensive reference work exploring recent changes and future trends in the principles that govern institutional investors and fiduciaries. A wide range of contributors offer new perspectives on dynamics that drive the current emphasis on short-term investment returns. Moreover, they analyze the forces at work in markets around the world, which are bringing into sharper focus the systemic effects that investment practices have on the long-term stability of the economy and the interests of beneficiaries in financial, social, and environmental sustainability. This volume provides a global and multi-faceted commentary on the evolving standards governing institutional investment, offering guidance for students, researchers, and policy makers interested in finance, governance, and other aspects of the contemporary investment world. It also provides investment, business, financial media, and legal professionals with the tools they need to better understand and respond to new financial market challenges of the twenty-first century.

    Keywords: Governance; Integrated Corporate Reporting; Institutional Investing; Financial Services Industry;


    Eccles, Robert G., J. Herron, and George Serafeim. "Promoting Corporate Sustainability through Integrated Reporting: The Role of Investment Fiduciaries and the Responsibilities of the Corporate Board." Chap. 31 in Cambridge Handbook of Institutional Investment and Fiduciary Duty, edited by James P. Hawley, Andreas G.F. Hoepner, Keith L. Johnson, Joakim Sandberg, and Edward J. Waitzer, 403–415. Cambridge University Press, forthcoming. (Due in July 2014.) View Details
  2. Rainmakers: Why Bad Weather Means Good Productivity

    People believe that weather conditions influence their everyday work life, but to date, little is known about how weather affects individual productivity. Contrary to conventional wisdom, we predict and find that bad weather increases individual productivity and that it does so by eliminating potential cognitive distractions resulting from good weather. When the weather is bad, individuals appear to focus more on their work than on alternate outdoor activities. We investigate the proposed relationship between worse weather and higher productivity through four studies: (1) field data on employees' productivity from a bank in Japan; (2) two studies from an online labor market in the United States; (3) a laboratory experiment. Our findings suggest that worker productivity is higher on bad rather than good weather days and that cognitive distractions associated with good weather may explain the relationship. We discuss the theoretical and practical implications of our research.

    Keywords: weather; productivity; opportunity cost; distractions; Weather and Climate Change; Performance Productivity; Cognition and Thinking;


    Lee, Jooa Julia, Francesca Gino, and Bradley R. Staats. "Rainmakers: Why Bad Weather Means Good Productivity." Journal of Applied Psychology 99, no. 3 (May 2014): 504–513. View Details
  3. The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board

    In 2014, as the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) has just brought former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on as chairman of the board, Jean Rogers, founder and CEO struggles with how best to ensure the nonprofit's financial sustainability while pushing for broad acceptance of its nonfinancial accounting metrics.

    Keywords: sustainability; sustainability reporting; accounting; reporting; Environmental Sustainability; Accounting; Accounting Industry; United States;


    Battilana, Julie, and Michael Norris. "The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board." Harvard Business School Case 414-078, May 2014. View Details
  4. Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc.: Taking on Seasonal Starvation in Latin America

    A company with a strong commitment toward corporate social responsibility since its founding days, Green Mountain faced an ethical decision point in 2007 as new information from the field uncovered a chronic dire problem facing coffee communities—seasonal starvation. Company leaders are driven to re-assess their social impact and address this widespread problem while aligning their efforts with their broader, rapidly expanding business of selling coffee.

    Keywords: Fair Trade; coffee; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Environmental Sustainability; Food and Beverage Industry; Consumer Products Industry; Latin America; Central America; Mexico; Guatemala; Nicaragua;


    Marquis, Christopher, and Zoe Yang. "Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Inc.: Taking on Seasonal Starvation in Latin America." Harvard Business School Case 414-065, April 2014. View Details
  5. Corporate and Integrated Reporting: A Functional Perspective

    In this paper, we present the two primary functions of corporate reporting (information and transformation) and why currently isolated financial and sustainability reporting are not likely to perform effectively those functions. We describe the concept of integrated reporting and why integrated reporting could be a superior mechanism to perform these functions. Moreover, we discuss, through a series of case studies, what constitutes an effective integrated report (Coca-Cola Hellenic Bottling Company) and the role of regulation in integrated reporting (Anglo-American).

    Keywords: sustainability; sustainability reporting; integrated reporting; corporate reporting; corporate accountability; corporate social responsibility; Corporate Disclosure; disclosure; accounting; Investing; information; Corporate Accountability; Corporate Disclosure; Integrated Corporate Reporting; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact;


    Eccles, Robert G., and George Serafeim. "Corporate and Integrated Reporting: A Functional Perspective." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 14-094, April 2014. (Revised May 2014.) View Details
  6. Attracting Long-Term Investors Through Integrated Thinking and Reporting: A Clinical Study of a Biopharmaceutical Company

    Faced with a large percentage of investors that chase short-term returns, companies could benefit by attracting investors with longer-term horizons and incentives that are more consistent with the long-term strategy of the company. The managers of most companies take their investor base as a "given" that cannot be changed through their actions or words. Using the case of Shire, a biopharmaceutical company with a strong commitment to the goals of improving the safety of its products and the reliability of its supply chain, the authors of this article suggest that companies have the ability and the means to change their investor base in ways that are consistent with their strategy. One of the most promising ways of attracting such investors is integrated reporting, which provides companies with a means of credibly communicating the commitment of its top leadership to diffusing integrated thinking across the organization and to building strong relationships with important external stakeholders. In the case of Shire, both a commitment to integrated thinking and the adoption of integrated reporting appear to have helped the company attract longer-term investors, which in turn has strengthened management's confidence to carry out its strategy of stakeholder engagement and investment.

    Keywords: Investing; asset management; long-term investing; Short-termism; sustainability; integrated reporting; leadership; Leadership & Corporate Accountability; pharmaceutical industry; Pharmaceuticals; Leadership; Integrated Corporate Reporting; Investment; Business and Stakeholder Relations; Corporate Finance; Biotechnology Industry; Pharmaceutical Industry;


    Knauer, Andrew, and George Serafeim. "Attracting Long-Term Investors Through Integrated Thinking and Reporting: A Clinical Study of a Biopharmaceutical Company." Journal of Applied Corporate Finance 26, no. 2 (Spring 2014): 57–64. View Details
  7. Corporate Social Responsibility and Access to Finance

    In this paper, we investigate whether superior performance on corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategies leads to better access to finance. We hypothesize that better access to finance can be attributed to a) reduced agency costs due to enhanced stakeholder engagement and b) reduced informational asymmetry due to increased transparency. Using a large cross-section of firms, we find that firms with better CSR performance face significantly lower capital constraints. Moreover, we provide evidence that both of the hypothesized mechanisms, better stakeholder engagement and transparency around CSR performance, are important in reducing capital constraints. The results are further confirmed using an instrumental variables and a simultaneous equations approach. Finally, we show that the relation is driven by both the social and the environmental dimension of CSR.

    Keywords: corporate social responsibility; sustainability; capital constraints; "ESG (environmental, social, governance) performance"; stakeholder engagement; disclosure; Corporate Disclosure; Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Environmental Sustainability; Capital;


    Cheng, Beiting, Ioannis Ioannou, and George Serafeim. "Corporate Social Responsibility and Access to Finance." Strategic Management Journal 35, no. 1 (2014): 1–23. View Details
  8. Reinventing State Capitalism: Leviathan in Business, Brazil and Beyond

    In this book we describe the transformation of state capitalism from a model in which governments owned and ran corporations and broadly controlled the allocation of financial resources into two new varieties of state capitalism: Leviathan as a majority and as a minority investor. In this book we study the implications of such transformation using detailed data from Brazil between 1976 and 2009. In the Leviathan as a majority investor governments have started to list state-owned enterprises, have selected professional managers to run them, and have given them more financial autonomy. We argue that the transformation from owner and manager to majority shareholder has reduced many agency problems commonly faced by SOEs, but has not reduced the temptation governments face to intervene in the operation of large strategic enterprises. In the Leviathan as a minority shareholder mode, governments have small equity ownership in corporations and in general do not intervene in management. We find evidence that such equity investments allow firms to alleviate capital constraints and increase capital expenditures. Yet we also find instances in which governments use their minority positions to intervene in the management of firms, especially in natural resource industries.

    Keywords: State capitalism; state-owned enterprises; industrial policy; development banks; Capitalism; Financial Markets; corporate governance; corporate governance theory; CEO effects; Public Sector; Economic Systems; Financial Institutions; Corporate Governance; Business and Government Relations; Governing and Advisory Boards; State Ownership; Privatization; Public Ownership; Emerging Markets; Banking Industry; Mining Industry; Energy Industry;


    Musacchio, Aldo, and Sergio G. Lazzarini. Reinventing State Capitalism: Leviathan in Business, Brazil and Beyond. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2014. View Details
  9. Waste, Recycling and Entrepreneurship in Central and Northern Europe, 1870–1940

    This working paper examines the role of entrepreneurs in the municipal solid waste industry in industrialized central and northern Europe from the late nineteenth century to the 1940s. It explores the emergence of numerous German, Danish, and other European entrepreneurial firms explicitly devoted to making a profitable business out of conserving and returning valuable resources to productive use, while maintaining public sanitation and in many cases offering nascent environmental protections. These ventures were qualitatively different from both earlier, smaller private waste traders, and the later garbage agglomerates, and have been neglected in an era that historians have treated as a period of municipalization. These entrepreneurs sometimes had strikingly modern views of environmental challenges and the need to overcome them. They initiated processes for sorting and recycling waste materials that are still employed today. Yet it proved difficult to combine making profits and achieving social value in accordance with the "shared value" model of today. As providers of public goods such as health and sanitation and a cleaner environment, the entrepreneurs were often unable to capture sufficient profits to sustain businesses. Recycled-goods markets were volatile. There was also a tension between the constant waste stream on the collection side and a seasonal/cyclical demand for recycled products. The frequent failure of these businesses helps to explain why in more recent decades private waste companies have been associated with late entry into recycling, often trailing municipal governments and non-profit entities.

    Keywords: Environmental Entrepreneurship; business history; Entrepreneurship; Health; History; Green Technology Industry; Germany; Denmark; Hungary; United Kingdom;


    Jones, Geoffrey, and Andrew Spadafora. "Waste, Recycling and Entrepreneurship in Central and Northern Europe, 1870–1940." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 14-084, March 2014. View Details
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