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. Making the Business Case for Environmental Sustainability

    Rebecca Henderson

    Can a business case be made for acting sustainably? This is a difficult question to answer precisely, largely because there is no generally accepted definition of the term “sustainability”. Is it acting sustainably to protect the human rights of the firm’s workforce? To invest in education in local communities? To switch to renewable power? All of these actions might improve social welfare, and some of them might improve profitability but they are very different, and the business case for each of them is similarly likely to look quite different. Here I begin to explore the issue by focusing on a more limited question, namely whether a business case be made for acting in an environmentally sustainable way, which I define as acting in any way that reduce a firm’s environmental footprint.

    Keywords: Corporate Social Responsibility and Impact; Decision Making; Environmental Sustainability;


    Henderson, Rebecca. "Making the Business Case for Environmental Sustainability." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 15-068, February 2015. View Details
  2. Solar Geoengineering

    Joseph B. Lassiter III and Stephanie Puzio

    Keywords: climate change; geoengineering; carbon; carbon emissions; energy; nuclear; nuclear energy; de-extinction; Chemicals; Values and Beliefs; Moral Sensibility; Global Range; Cross-Cultural and Cross-Border Issues; Technological Innovation; Innovation Strategy; Problems and Challenges; Research and Development; Environmental Sustainability; Pollution and Pollutants; Science-Based Business; Weather and Climate Change; Aerospace Industry; Biotechnology Industry; Chemical Industry; Energy Industry; Green Technology Industry; Technology Industry;


    Lassiter, Joseph B., III, and Stephanie Puzio. "Solar Geoengineering." Harvard Business School Case 815-081, February 2015. View Details
  3. China Shenhua Energy Company

    Forest L. Reinhardt, G. A. Donovan and Keith Chi-ho Wong

    A leading Chinese energy firm, active in coal mining and electric power generation, analyzes coal-to-liquids technology in light of energy security and environmental concerns.

    Keywords: energy; environment; China; CO2; coal mining; Electricity; sustainability; Energy; Strategy; Business and Government Relations; Energy Generation; Energy Sources; Environmental Sustainability; Energy Industry; Utilities Industry; China; Asia;


    Reinhardt, Forest L., G. A. Donovan, and Keith Chi-ho Wong. "China Shenhua Energy Company." Harvard Business School Case 715-026, February 2015. View Details
  4. The Role of Multiplier Firms and Megaprojects in Leading Change for Sustainability

    Amy C. Edmondson, Martine Haas, John D. Macomber and Tiona Zuzul

    In both the private and public sectors, organizations around the world face increasingly pressing questions about how to stimulate and manage change for long-term environmental, social, and economic sustainability. The purpose of this chapter is to highlight the roles of multiplier firms and megaprojects in leading change for sustainability around the world, particularly in the context of the built environment. Multiplier firms are organizations that work with and offer ongoing sustainability solutions to a range of client organizations. Megaprojects are finite-duration initiatives involving multiple diverse entities in the design and delivery of a large-scale development, such as a brand new ecologically sustainable city. Drawing on four illustrative case studies of multiplier firms and megaprojects engaged in sustainability-related initiatives, we also explain the value of learning logic, in contrast to blueprint logic, for leading change for sustainability.

    Keywords: Leading Change; Environmental Sustainability;


    Edmondson, Amy C., Martine Haas, John D. Macomber, and Tiona Zuzul. "The Role of Multiplier Firms and Megaprojects in Leading Change for Sustainability." Chap. 11 in Leading Sustainable Change: An Organizational Perspective, edited by Rebecca Henderson, Ranjay Gulati, and Michael Tushman. Oxford University Press, 2015. View Details
  5. Colombia and the Economic Premium of Peace

    Richard H.K. Vietor and Hilary White

    Colombia, the fastest growing country in Latin America, continues to struggle with productivity. Both labor productivity and total factor productivity have been low for the past decade, despite economic growth of 4.7% annually. Many factors contribute-- everything from infrastructure, to banking, to informality. President Santos, one year into his second term, is well aware of these difficulties and has put in place new policies to mitigate them. His focus, however, is on peace negotiations with the FARC-- a possible settlement of the 50-year struggle which itself would significantly impact productivity.

    Keywords: colombia; productivity; productivity growth; conflict; conflict management; economics; macroeconomics; labor force participation; labor market; competitive advantage; competitiveness; infrastructure; negotiation; dutch disease; Latin America; national security; Security; peace; informality; labor laws; total factor productivity; labor productivity; Economics; Development Economics; Economic Growth; Economy; Macroeconomics; Inflation and Deflation; Non-Renewable Energy; National Security; Government Administration; Latin America; Central America; Colombia; South America;


    Vietor, Richard H.K., and Hilary White. "Colombia and the Economic Premium of Peace." Harvard Business School Case 715-011, January 2015. View Details
  6. Staying the Same While Changing: Organizational Identity in the Face of Environmental Challenges

    Mary Ann Glynn, Christi Lockwood and Ryan Raffaelli

    We explore the role of organizational identity in the adoption of new sustainability practices, focusing on how identity functions as a driver of (or sometimes a drag on) adoption. Drawing on illustrations from the U.S. hotel industry, we examine how sustainability practices diffused across firms. Focusing on two exemplar hotels, we show sustainability is not only "what we do" as an organization, but also "who we are." We discuss avenues for future research on sustainability from an identity perspective and reflect on implications for practice.

    Keywords: Organizational Change and Adaptation; Mission and Purpose; Organizational Culture; Environmental Sustainability; Adoption; Accommodations Industry; United States;


    Glynn, Mary Ann, Christi Lockwood, and Ryan Raffaelli. "Staying the Same While Changing: Organizational Identity in the Face of Environmental Challenges." In Leading Sustainable Change: An Organizational Perspective, edited by Rebecca Henderson, Ranjay Gulati, and Michael Tushman. Oxford University Press, 2015. View Details
  7. Leading Sustainable Change: An Organizational Perspective

    Rebecca Henderson, Ranjay Gulati and Michael Tushman

    The business case for acting sustainably is becoming increasingly compelling—reducing our global footprint to sustainable levels is the defining issue of our times, and it is one that can only be addressed with the active participation of the private sector. However, persuading well-established organizations to act in new ways is never easy. This book is designed to support business leaders and organizational scholars who are grappling with this challenge by pulling together leading-edge insights from some of the world's best researchers as to how organizational change in general—and sustainable change in particular—can be most effectively managed. The book begins by laying out the economic case for change, while subsequent chapters describe how leaders at firms such as Du Pont, IBM, and Cemex have transformed their organizations, exploring issues such as the role of the senior team and the ways in which firms shift their identities, build innovative cultures and processes, and begin to change the world around them. Business leaders will find the book a source of both powerful examples and immediately actionable ideas, while scholars will be deeply intrigued by the insights that emerge from the cross cutting exploration of one of the toughest challenges our society has ever faced.

    Keywords: environmental sustainability;


    Henderson, Rebecca, Ranjay Gulati and Michael Tushman, eds. Leading Sustainable Change: An Organizational Perspective. Oxford University Press, 2015. View Details
  8. Transition to Clean Technology

    We develop a microeconomic model of endogenous growth where clean and dirty technologies compete in production and innovation, in the sense that research can be directed to either clean or dirty technologies. If dirty technologies are more advanced to start with, the potential transition to clean technology can be difficult both because clean research must climb several rungs to catch up with dirty technology and because this gap discourages research effort directed towards clean technologies. Carbon taxes and research subsidies may nonetheless encourage production and innovation in clean technologies, though the transition will typically be slow. We characterize certain general properties of the transition path from dirty to clean technology. We then estimate the model using a combination of regression analysis on the relationship between R&D and patents, and simulated method of moments using microdata on employment, production, R&D, firm growth, entry and exit from the US energy sector. The model's quantitative implications match a range of moments not targeted in the estimation quite well. We then characterize the optimal policy path implied by the model and our estimates. Optimal policy makes heavy use of research subsidies as well as carbon taxes. We use the model to evaluate the welfare consequences of a range of alternative policies.

    Keywords: Technological Innovation; Entrepreneurship; Environmental Sustainability; Green Technology Industry;


    Acemoglu, Daron, Ufuk Akcigit, Douglas Hanley, and William R. Kerr. "Transition to Clean Technology." Harvard Business School Working Paper, No. 15-045, December 2014. View Details
  9. Disrupting the Meat Industry: Tissue Culture Beef

    Jose B. Alvarez and Matthew G. Preble

    Dr. Mark Post and his team at Maastricht University were perfecting their tissue culture beef product—made entirely from muscle grown in his lab—to give it the same taste, texture and appearance of a traditional beef hamburger. A previous iteration of this product had been taste tested live, with good results, and Sergey Brin, a co-founder of Google, had provided Post with much of the funding to make the burgers. The next step was to form an independent company around this technology and take it to market. This innovative product could both radically disrupt the existing beef production and supply chain, and provide an animal welfare and environmentally-friendly food that had far less of an environmental impact than traditional beef products.

    Post faced several challenges in making this a commercially viable product though. He had to get price down, as it currently cost roughly $330,000 to make a single burger. He also had to find the right partner(s) to help him bring the product to market, but who should he work with: someone from the established beef production and supply system, a retailer, or someone entirely outside the traditional beef system? How could he expect established companies to react to this disruption of the status quo?

    Messaging around this product was critical: How should Post communicate with the public to convey that this was a natural product—the way muscle tissue grew in his lab was the same way it developed in cattle—and overcome public skepticism of overt scientific involvement in their food?

    Keywords: Agribusiness; innovation; Beef Production; Environmental impacts of food production; Agribusiness; Animal-Based Agribusiness; Disruptive Innovation; Innovation and Invention; Environmental Sustainability; Food; Agriculture and Agribusiness Industry; Food and Beverage Industry; Netherlands; United States; United Kingdom;


    Alvarez, Jose B., and Matthew G. Preble. "Disrupting the Meat Industry: Tissue Culture Beef." Harvard Business School Case 515-001, November 2014. (Revised November 2014.) View Details
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