Businesses, nonprofits, and governments around the world are using a wide range of approaches to address complex issues related to climate change and the environment. Here are some of SSIR's most popular articles on the topic.
Climate Science as Culture War
While a scientific consensus on the existence of climate change has long been established, reaching a social consensus has proven more contentious. Andrew Hoffman, the Holcim Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan, argues that the ongoing public debate over climate change is not—as it may appear on the surface—merely a debate over empirical evidence and mathematical models. Rather, it is a clash of fundamental cultures, values, and ideologies. For that reason, he writes, the often overlooked social scientists must contribute their expertise on the behavioral and cultural factors that affect people’s views on climate change.
Cultivating the Green Consumer
While 87 percent of consumers say they are concerned about the environmental impact of the products they purchase, only 33 percent have actually bought green products or believe they are ready to do so. To shrink this discrepancy, businesses should take the initiative in making the purchasing of green products as simple and accessible as possible, write Sheila Bonini and Jeremy Oppenheim of McKinsey & Company. In this piece, they present five common barriers that prevent shoppers from “going green” and suggest ways to tackle each.
There Is No Such Thing as a Green Product
What exactly constitutes a “green” product? According to Trevor Zink, an associate professor of industrial ecology and green supply chain management at the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at University of California at Santa Barbara and Roland Geyer, an assistant professor of sustainability and corporate social responsibility at the College of Business Administration, Loyola Marymount University, the standards are overly simplistic. Many products are labeled green in isolation and without genuine analysis. The authors propose creating a more holistic metric: the net impact, or “net green,” that a product or service has on the environment after accounting for all factors—including its effect on markets and consumer behavior.
Businesses and Investors Need to Act on Climate Now
The business case for acting on climate change has never been stronger—or more urgent, writes Alicia Seiger, deputy director of the Stanford Steyer-Taylor Center for Energy Policy and Finance. She highlights the economic costs of corporate inaction, points to companies leading the way, and presents three concrete steps businesses can take today.
Connecting Climate Resilience to the Bottom Line
In this piece, Seiger, along with Kate Brandt and Kate Rudolph, examines Google’s climate resilience strategy and the principles its teams have developed to guide decision-making. Tools that quantify the benefit of investing in climate resilience now for long-term good are critical to encouraging action, they argue.
The Greening of Wal-Mart
After Wal-Mart’s reputation regarding its sale of environmentally safe products began to slip, former CEO H. Lee Scott Jr. announced his intention to reduce the corporation’s environmental footprint and initiate what he deemed a “business sustainability strategy.” In this piece, Erica L. Plambeck and Lyn Denend of the Stanford Graduate School of Business draw from more than 40 interviews with Wal-Mart representatives and partners to break down the corporation's goal to implement that strategy. Since Scott’s proclamation in 2005, Wal-Mart has simultaneously addressed environmental issues, built mutually beneficial relationships with suppliers and nonprofits, and increased profitability.
Tracking the Field of Environmental Philanthropy
The Environmental Grantmakers Association and the Foundation Center have partnered to analyze and present data on the field of environmental philanthropy since the 2008 financial crisis. Bradford K. Smith and Rachel Leon, who respectively lead the Foundation Center and EGA, take a look at the resulting report, concluding that such resources—made possible by the latest data and technology—have transformative potential that the field of environmental philanthropy should continue to explore.
From Sustainability to Abundance
When it comes to protecting and restoring our planet, shifting the terminology we use could radically increase people’s willingness to act. Jay Friedlander of College of the Atlantic champions a transition from thinking in terms of sustainability and scarcity to thinking in terms of abundance. This alternative mindset has the ability to expand economic opportunity, spur innovation, and strengthen communities, ultimately benefiting what he dubs the “3 Ps”: people, profit, and the planet.
Engaging Employees to Create a Sustainable Business
Promoting and maintaining sustainability shouldn’t be the job of just one employee or department in a company, say Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, and CB Bhattacharya, professor of marketing and founding director of the Center for Sustainable Business at the European School of Management and Technology. Businesses benefit most—financially, environmentally, and in terms of employee retention, productivity, and cultural vibrancy—when they find ways to embed sustainability into the day-to-day tasks of every employee. Through examples of companies such as Unilever and Marks & Spencer, the authors illustrate that sustainability efforts are best realized when each and every individual is involved and connected to the effort.
Picking Green Tech’s Winners and Losers
The four main reasons that advanced technologies fail to achieve commercial success? Technical challenges, systemic complexity, head-on competition, and lack of consumer desire. In this piece, authors Clayton M. Christensen, Suman Talukdar, Richard Alton, and Michael B. Horn outline these reasons and present strategic ways for the government and clean tech industry to maximize green energy technology’s chances for success.
Read more of our articles on innovations in environmental protection and conserving natural resources.