Tag Archives: business

Andrew Winston’s “The Big Pivot”


By: Nathan Sell*

What does it mean to live in a world that is hotter, scarcer and more open?  Andrew Winston, business sustainability guru, debuts his follow up work to “Green to Gold.”  “The Big Pivot” looks at what it means to live in a world ravaged by unpredictable weather patterns, scarcity of precious resources, and openness of information that comes with living in the world of today and tomorrow.  Most importantly, Winston examines how businesses must react (or pivot) for survival.  Sustainability has slowly been gaining ground in business, but it can no longer be a “buzz word,” but rather a piece of day-to-day operations and decision making in every company and business.

There’s quite literally a storm brewing, as Hurricane Sandy, and numerous other disasters have proven in recent years. Climate Change is not an event that will happen one day, it is happening now.  The demands of seven billion inhabitants on this planet is showing in nearly every way, from resource use and carbon emissions, to water and food scarcity.  We’ll reach the nine billion mark somewhere around 2050.  Not only will there be nine billion people, but the emerging global middle class means that those nine billion people will be more demanding on the earth’s resources than ever before.  To sustain the human race “The Big Pivot” must take place.

While sustainability, social responsibility and environmental programs have long formed niche departments in a variety of businesses, Winston identifies the “Pivot” as moving these “niche” departments into leading roles.  Businesses operate within the confines of our planet’s resources. The sooner environment and sustainability are the main informants in decision making, the sooner we can hope to operate within the limits that exist, yielding a zero footprint or even restorative change.

Many “early movers” in the sustainability realm are reaping the benefits of sustainable operations.  By dismissing the notion of operating on a quarter-by-quarter basis, but looking to long-term sustainable investment as a means of ensuring longevity and continued growth, these companies are leading industries in both sustainability and sales.  Some of these forward thinking companies include IGEL Corporate Advisory Board members such as Dow, Johnson & Johnson, Xerox and GE to name a few.

Winston reminds us that when taking action to enhance business in a hotter, scarcer and more open world, the first step is goal setting.  These goals must be informed by science.  If we hope to live in a world with no more than a 2 degree Celsius rise in temperature, emissions must be curbed 80% by 2050.  It is clear that working in the confines of “what we think we can do” is no longer acceptable.  Aggressive, process altering goals must be set, and these goals must align to the 2050 benchmark or they are too little too late.  The proof is out there, as outlined in Winston’s writing, that not only do these reductions yield environmental benefits but profits as well.  Evaluating how your company can help to reach this 2050 target can be daunting but the tools available at pivotgoals.com can help to guide change.  Still unsure that your business can benefit from “The Big Pivot?” Get your copy, available on Amazon.

*Nathan Sell is a recent graduate of the Master of Environmental Studies program at the University of Pennsylvania, and is the current IGEL Coordinator.

Professional Sports Teams Win Big on Sustainability

By Sara Drexler*

Panelists and Moderators from Friday’s Leadership in Greening the Sports Industry Conference. Courtesy of NRDC.

Last Friday, the Wharton Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (Wharton IGEL) partnered with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Wharton Sports Business Initiative to host representatives from the professional sports industry to share ideas around “Leadership in Greening the Sports Industry: Raising the Bar for Sustainability.” Allen Hershkowitz from NRDC, a senior scientist who is a thought leader in sustainability efforts in the sports industry, opened the panel with a remarkable statistic: 13% of people follow science, over 63% follow sports. The sports industry has a unique opportunity to influence trends in sustainability through its significant fan base across all types of sports. Additionally, the sports industry’s unique facilities and operations present significant opportunity for long-term cost savings through investments in environmental sustainability. This combination of financial incentives and a large base of loyal fans positions the sports industry for maximum impact on sustainability. Continue reading

Sustainable Brands 2013 – From Revolution to Renaissance

By Silvia Schmid

McDonoughWilliam McDonough at the Sustainable Brands Conference “From Revolution to Renaissance” in San Diego (Courtesy of Sustainable Brands)

Sustainable Brands’ 2013 Conference “From Revolution to Renaissance” took place this past week in San Diego, bringing together hundreds of professionals and thought leaders in sustainability and corporate social responsibility. Sustainable Brands is a supporting member of the Wharton Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (Wharton IGEL).

Though many topics were addressed, three of the most salient themes from the conference were:

  • Transitioning towards transparency and full disclosure
  • Maintaining initial values while navigating through big data
  • Changing perspectives on sustainability

Continue reading

Energy Efficiency: Still Wasting in the Building

by Silvia Schmid


Last week’s conference “Building Energy Efficiency: Seeking Strategies that Work” offered the opportunity to discuss the many barriers to advancements in energy efficiency beyond current standards. The event was cohosted by the Wharton Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (IGEL), the Institute for Urban Research at the University of Pennsylvania, the Wharton Risk Management and Decision Processes Center, and the Wharton Small Business Development Center, in partnership with the Energy Efficient Buildings Hub and sponsored by SAP. Speakers and panelists provided valuable insights on the current status of energy efficiency in buildings, addressing topics ranging from consumption measurement and increased transparency, to some of the psychological challenges inherent in adopting more energy efficient behavior. The common message throughout the day was how much remains to be done to make energy efficiency a mainstream priority.

Continue reading

Challenges and Opportunities of Investing in Cleantech and Renewable Energy

By Zhan Zhou*


Based on the database of the Cleantech Group, there are about 19,200 cleantech companies in the world, of which over 1/3  are based in the United States.[I] Despite some minor setbacks, there is no doubt that cleantech has become one of the most targeted sectors for both public and private investment. A few numbers can shed light on the fact that the cleantech industry has emerged to be a fast-growing industry of great political and environmental significance:

  • During 2012 alone, cleantech companies around the globe raised $6.56 billion of venture capital across 732 deals [II]
  • For the global Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), the cleantech sector ranked as the second largest sector after oil and gas by attracting $12 billion from the global FDI into the U.S. in 2011, making it the fastest growth sector for the past decade [III]
  • Through July 20th, 2012, the §1603 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act program had awarded $13.0 billion to nearly 45,000 renewable energy projects [IV]

Market Challenges
With a seemingly growing appetite for investment in cleantech, some important market challenges lie ahead. Continue reading

A Portable Environmental Economics Lab

by Yixiu Zheng*

I started working on this project last semester, while taking a course in environmental economics.

As a subfield of economics, environmental economics draws on both microeconomics and macroeconomics[i], but it also has unique concepts of its own. I have seen that students who have never studied economics before can find terms like “property rights” and “marginal abatement cost” overwhelming. While scholars of economics often use historical data and experiments, environmental economics is a relatively recent discipline, developed first in 1950s in the U.S.[ii] There aren’t many experiments to build upon; for instance, the water rights trade doesn’t have a large scope of application, except for some arid areas like California and Australia. So how are students supposed to fully understand and apply these concepts in the real world?

I learn best through direct experience. This type of teaching doesn’t seem boring to me. And in fact, it is suggested that people do have a better memory when they put teachings into practice, for example, by trying to cook a meal rather than just reading its recipe. This is why I want to create a game about environmental economics. Continue reading

A Business of Sports and Sustainability

by Silvia Schmid


Jami Leveen, Director of Marketing and Environmental Stewardship, ARAMARK Sports & Entertainment

Aside from its benefits to society, business sustainability has become valuable in its own right for those enterprises moving to achieve it properly – and market it honestly. As part of their joint seminar series, Wharton’s Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership and the Institute of Environmental Studies at the University of Pennsylvania invited Jami Leveen, Director of Marketing and Environmental Stewardship for ARAMARK’s Sports & Entertainment division, to speak about the company’s sustainability practices.

Due to their celebrity, professional athletes are often trendsetters in a variety of settings from fashion to films. But a growing green trend has seen athletes in the US –and their sporting facilities– emerging as leaders also in environmental stewardship. Sporting events, which, aside from the games themselves, are perhaps best characterized by massive consumption and waste, are opportune spots to communicate a message of environmental sustainability. The large audience, and the tendency for many fans to imitate their favorite players, can strongly influence behavior inside and outside the stadium. In the words of Ms. Leveen: if Derek Jeter tells his fans to recycle, there is a much better chance they will spend those extra 1.2 seconds choosing the right bin. But the impact can be felt beyond simply the behavior of fans. The purchasing power of sports venues also puts pressure on vendors and the rest of the supply chain. Continue reading

oikosPenn Student Reporter posts Coming Soon…!

Today, April 26th 2012, eight students from the University of Pennsylvania are reporting live from the Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership’s Fifth Annual Conference-Workshop entitled Greening the Supply Chain: Best Business Practices and Future Trends held at Huntsman Hall. The line-up of speakers includes representatives from the public and private sector. The students are part of the first accredited Oikos chapter in North America (just announced yesterday!).

Stay tuned as the student reporters publish posts that cover the discussions held at the Conference. They have also done in-depth interviews with keynote speakers and industry leaders that will be available shortly.

Follow the conversation on Twitter through #IGEL, @WhartonIGEL and @oikosPenn!

Business Sustainability Leadership: a New Wharton Executive Education Program

ImageOne of the initiatives that IGEL has been building is an Executive Education program in sustainability.  Thanks to the generous support of SAP, this program, Business Sustainability Leadership, launches in June. We are excited to harness the cutting-edge teaching of Wharton’s premier Aresty Institute of Executive Education to help solve issues in business and the environment. Sustainability requires interdisciplinary and cross-functional thinking, strategic planning and leadership – all of which are components of leading Executive Education programs here at Wharton.  Business Sustainability Leadership is June 12-14, 2012 in Wharton’s San Francisco Campus.  Registration is open now – join peers and mentors in sharing best practices and learning new skills and strategy from leading Wharton professors.  Follow the link below to find out more about the program and to register.