The Sustainable Development Goals read like the best-intentioned New Year’s resolutions: End poverty; promote peace and justice; cooperate and partner with others for the greater good; and so on. Makes you wonder if the resolutions will stick.
Yet corporations that have begun to pursue the SDGs see business advantages unfolding that will reap benefits in 2017 and beyond. They are expanding markets, attracting talent and eliminating some risk from operations.
Microsoft, Google, Unilever, Tata, Siemens and others are seeing expanded markets, new recruits and risk reduction. Learn more >>
This post was written by Brodie O’Brien, SEMBA ’15, and Assistant Marketing Manager – US for Ben & Jerry’s
The University of Vermont’s SEMBA was a twelve month sprint from the nonprofit world to my dream job with a mission-driven company. No matter where you pursue your MBA you’ll be juggling coursework, internships, a social life (if you’re lucky), and maybe a family. It’s an incredibly busy time, so approaching the job search with a clear strategy is key to landing that perfect position.
On his way out of office, President Barack Obama is cementing his environmental legacy in ways that will be difficult for his successor to overturn. Today, he and Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau banned oil and gas drilling in 115 million acres of the Arctic Ocean and 3.8 million acres of the Atlantic Ocean, in a swath stretching from Maryland to Massachusetts. Earlier in the year, Obama had excluded these areas for a five-year period, but today’s action used a provision in the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) that should make the withdrawal permanent.
OCSLA gives the federal government jurisdiction over all submerged lands more than three miles offshore—that is, outside of state coastal waters. It gives the Department of the Interior the ability to lease offshore tracts for oil and natural gas, but its section 12(a) specifically allows the president to “withdraw from disposition any of the unleased lands of the outer continental shelf.” Since there is no provision for a succeeding president to reverse such an order, it is presumed to be permanent.
US outdoor clothing giant Patagonia is calling for business leaders to back regenerative organic agriculture, claiming that certain textile standards are “not going far enough.”
Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario blogs about regenerative agriculture:
A growing number of corporations, researchers, journalists and practitioners have also started using the term “regenerative”—as well as “restorative,” “sustainable,” “ethical,” and others—almost interchangeably, without any clear sense of what we’re talking about. Even worse, we’re increasingly seeing “sustainable” claims combined with conventional (non-organic) farming, which defeats the purpose entirely. How can you rebuild soil ecosystems while simultaneously pumping the soil with pesticides and herbicides?
We shouldn’t tolerate the watering down of agricultural practices that hold potential for enormous benefit to our suffering planet. The risks are simply too great. Meaningless terms with little or no concrete definition inundate consumers at every turn (even the label “organic” can be slippery), causing confusion at best. And some existing standards don’t go far enough. For example, many companies have signed onto the Better Cotton Initiative—a program that includes some important environmental and social provisions but ultimately still perpetuates some harmful conventional practices, including use of synthetic pesticides and GMO seeds.
Furniture giant Ikea says it will invest €1 billion ($1.1 billion) in forestry and companies developing recycling technologies, renewable energy and biomaterials as part of the retail giant’s plan to secure a long-term supply of sustainable materials for its products.
Part of Ikea’s billion-euro investment will focus on sustainable forestry. One of the ways Ikea and other companies do this is by investing in forests. This allows the companies to ensure the forests are managed responsibly, while also ensuring a reliable source of wood for products and packaging materials.
“The rise of human agency also comes from the creation of
new professions. Social entrepreneurship and social-impact investing open wide, new vistas for individuals committed to solving global problems. As Roger Martin and Sally Osberg argue in their book, Getting Beyond Better, social entrepreneurs are distinct from direct social-service providers and social advocates. They “seek to shift a stable but suboptimal equilibrium in a way that is neither entirely mandated nor entirely market-driven. They create new approaches to old and pernicious problems. And they work directly to tip society to a new and better state.”
“Social-impact investing has exploded from a few pioneers into a diverse ecosystem of boutique funds, philanthropic organizations, family offices, and large commercial banks. In Capital and the Common Good, author Georgia Levenson Keohane notes that nearly every mainstream financial institution, from Barclays to Bain Capital, now has a social or sustainable finance unit. The landscape is highly specialized by geography and issue area, ranging from small-business development to environmental and economic sustainability.”
Texas grid operator Electric Reliability Council of Texas announced that wind electricity generation hit a new peak record and represented approximately 45% of total electric demand, topping 15,000 MW for the first time.
A new report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the United Nations Conference for Trade Development (UNCTAD) has found that adopting circular economic principles would put India on a path to positive regenerative and value-creating development with annual benefits of US $624 billion in 2050 compared with the current development — equivalent to 30% of India’s current GDP.
“Traditionally, the Indian economy has been one where reusing, re-purposing and recycling has been second nature. In a world that is increasingly running out of natural resources, this thinking is an asset that must be leveraged by businesses, policymakers and citizens in an organized manner and expanded to include other elements to make the economy truly circular,” says Shankar Venkateswaran, chief of Tata Sustainability Group.
As a result of unprecedented economic dynamism and a rapidly expanding population, India — which is slated to become the fourth-largest economy in the world if current economic growth trends continue — faces significant questions about urbanization, resource scarcity and high levels of poverty, and will be required to make profound choices regarding the path to future development.
The emerging powerhouse market could embark upon an industrialization path comparable to that of mature markets — albeit faster — complete with all of the associated negative externalities it entails. But this scenario is not inevitable. With its young population and emerging manufacturing sector, the country is well positioned to make systematic choices that would put it on a trajectory towards positive, regenerative and value-creating development.
Written by Jason Wiff, SEMBA ’17, and previously posted on Impakter.com
In 2000, Unilever widened its umbrella of novelty brands and purchased the widely-popular, Vermont-based Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. With much domestic speculation over multi-national changes in business practices, Ben & Jerry’s remained untouched and continued business as usual. Just weeks ago Unilever announced that it was purchasing another sustainable, Vermont-based company, Seventh Generation.
When Unilever originally purchased Ben & Jerry’s it was noted that some of the ice cream companies’ controversial business practices could be in jeopardy, but the opposite seemed to be the outcome. Many conservational, societal and political impacts that were at the core of Ben & Jerry’s business model have not only thrived under Unilever, but have become a core part of Unilever itself.
A purchase price has not been released, but sources say Unilever purchased Seventh Generation for a price somewhere between $600-$700 million. Since 2011 Seventh Generation has been lead by CEO, John Replogle, a former Unilever executive and past CEO of Burt’s Bees. During this time, Seventh Generation has seen extreme growth with a revenue over $200 million in 2015.
In the most recent installment of SEMBA’s Executive in Residence speaker series, the CEO of 1% for the Planet, Kate Williams, detailed how she has turned a passion for the outdoors and leadership into a successful career in the non-profit sector. I, too, share a love of the natural environment; it was the driving force for me in seeking out SEMBA. In doing so I aspired to gain the skills necessary to use business to benefit the environment.