This post is the first in our Social Enterprise Initiative 25th anniversary blog series, which highlights some of the faculty, staff, students, and alumni who have been a part of SEI throughout the years. In this post, Jennifer Nash, Director of the HBS Business and Environment Initiative, shares her connection to SEI and her hopes for the future of social enterprise.
What do you see as the greatest opportunity for social enterprise at HBS? In recent months, the headlines about climate change have become increasingly ominous. A report last year by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that the window of opportunity for action on climate change has dramatically decreased. We must act very quickly to avoid the worst consequences of global warming. The National Climate Assessment, also released last year, estimated that climate change could diminish the US economy by 10 percent by the end of the century. It’s up to all of us—as citizens, voters, and managers—to acknowledge this urgency and work together to confront climate change. For me, climate change represents the greatest opportunity for social enterprise at HBS. The combined efforts of our faculty, students, and alumni have the potential to make a lasting difference.
What is one interesting/exciting trend or issue that our readers should be aware of? One promising trend is the way that banks and insurance companies are pressuring companies to disclose information about their environmental, social, and governance performance. Shareholders have been exerting this kind of pressure for some time, but the fact that others are stepping up is exciting.
What do you hope for the next 25 years of SEI? I see two possible paths for the next 25 years. The first is greater attention to social enterprise at HBS —more teaching cases about the challenges and opportunities of social enterprise in the required curriculum, more electives and executive education courses, more students entering the field, more faculty research and case writing about impact investing and the role of environmental, social, and governance metrics, more alumni engagement and leadership. The second path is the gradual fading away of social enterprise as a distinct entity as its tools and concepts become integrated into the curriculum—into what students, faculty, and alumni care about and do—to the point where they are the norm. The whole school becomes a social enterprise initiative. That is my hope.
How would you describe the social impact you seek to have in the world? I see myself as a community organizer bringing people together to focus on the business and environment issues of our generation, the most important of which is climate change.