Science & Environment

41 Results

 

The Business of Climate Change

What is the role of business and its leaders in creating positive climate change? In the middle of Climate Week, Six Harvard Business School faculty provide different perspectives. Closed for comment; 4 Comments posted.

The ABCs of Addressing Climate Change (From a Business Perspective)

How can business leaders cut through the noise and actively address climate change from an economic perspective? John Macomber proposes a list of ABCs. Closed for comment; 0 Comments posted.

Stop Thinking of Climate Change as a Religious or Political Issue

Private and public innovation around cleaning up our environment will be motivated only if prices reflect the true state of the world, says Forest Reinhardt. Open for comment; 1 Comment posted.

Tackling Climate Change Will Cost Less Than We Think

Yes, addressing climate change will be expensive, but not nearly as much as the costs of delaying action, argues Rebecca Henderson. Open for comment; 6 Comments posted.

The Climate Needs Aggressive CEO Leadership

History will judge CEOs not just on their stewardship of firm growth, but also on whether they effectively used their clout to address one of the greatest societal challenges of our time, say Michael Toffel and Auden Schendler. Open for comment; 3 Comments posted.

Take a Trim Tab Approach to Climate Change

Often depicted as greedy and shortsighted, business leaders face a crucial opportunity on the issue of climate change to change that perception, says Amy Edmondson. Open for comment; 1 Comment posted.

We Need a Miracle. New Nuclear Might Provide it.

New nuclear power technology could be the miracle we need to combat dangerous carbon emissions, says Joe Lassiter. Open for comment; 5 Comments posted.

Encourage Breakthrough Health Care by Competing on Products Rather Than Patents

For too long, the science behind breakthrough therapeutics has been locked behind patents held by universities. Richard Hamermesh proposes the market compete on solutions rather than intellectual property rights. Open for comment; 0 Comments posted.

Response to Readers: Combating Climate Change with Nuclear Power and Fracking

Following a contentious online debate, Professor Joe Lassiter expands his argument that nuclear power and fracking are the lesser evils when stacked up against coal power, and presents a way forward. Open for comment; 4 Comments posted.

From Green Users to Green Voters

Does the diffusion of technology affect voting patterns? Technology is usually not aligned with a specific ideology or political party. Indeed, to the extent that technology raises living standards, all parties tend to favor technology diffusion. However, in some cases, voters may associate a political party with a specific technology. Green parties, for example, advocate for the diffusion of green energy technologies and pursue policies that foster the diffusion of green energies. This paper finds a significant effect of photovoltaic (PV) adoption on the increase in the share of votes for Germany's Green Party. In particular, the increase in the diffusion rate of PV systems between 1998 and 2009 led to an increase in the fraction of green votes of 1 percent, which represents 25 percent of the actual increase in the voting rate experienced by the Green Party between 1998 and 2009. Read More

Earth Day: Recent Research on Sustainability

Earth Day helps us reflect on environmental issues that both sustain and threaten our planet. Harvard Business School researchers have approached these issues pragmatically, conducting numerous studies aimed at helping business leaders to understand how business affects the environment, and vice versa. Here is a sample of that work. Closed for comment; 1 Comment posted.

Technology Choice and Capacity Portfolios Under Emissions Regulation

What technologies should firms invest in when emissions are costly? With the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme in the EU, California's Assembly Bill 32, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in the northeastern US, and now Australia's Clean Energy Bill, more and more firms are having to ask themselves that question when planning their capacity portfolios. This paper uses formal theory to analyze firms' technology choice and capacity portfolios, both when emissions are taxed and when they are regulated under cap-and-trade. David Drake, Paul R. Kleindorfer, and Luk N. Van Wassenhove find that even when average emissions price is assumed to be equivalent to that under an emissions tax, firms are more profitable under cap-and-trade. The emissions price uncertainty under cap-and-trade that many argue will destroy value instead equips firms with a real option that increases value. In addition to comparing profits under emissions tax and cap-and-trade regimes, the authors identify a number of potential adverse outcomes that can arise as a consequence of emissions legislation that should be taken into consideration when formulating future climate policy. Read More

Historical Trajectories and Corporate Competences in Wind Energy

Analyzing developments in the wind turbine business over more than a century, Geoffrey Jones and Loubna Bouamane argue that public policy has been a key variable in the spread of wind energy since the 1980s, but that public policy was more of a problem than a facilitator in the earlier history of the industry. Geography has mattered to some extent, also: Both in the United States and Denmark, the existence of rural areas not supplied by electricity provided the initial stimulus to entrepreneurs and innovators. Building firm-level capabilities has been essential in an industry which has been both technically difficult and vulnerable to policy shifts. Read More

Boundary Spanning in a For-Profit Research Lab: An Exploration of the Interface Between Commerce and Academe

In science-based industries, innovation requires bridging the boundary between universities and companies. As entrepreneurial faculty venture into the world of commerce by building relationships and reputations in industry, company researchers and dealmakers seek access to the distributed knowledge base that resides within the community of scholars. But what happens within organizations when scientists venture deeply into the world of academe? In this look at one influential life sciences company, Christopher C. Liu of the Rotman School of Management and Toby E. Stuart of Harvard Business School find important connections between publishing, the allocation of rewards within the company, and the structure of the communication network inside and beyond the borders of the organization. Read More

The Role of Organizational Scope and Governance in Strengthening Private Monitoring

Governments have long debated which tasks should be outsourced to the private sector. Although often justified on the basis of the cost-efficiencies of market competition, outsourcing to private firms carries its own risks, which can reduce the quality of services provided. In addition to more conventional services such as garbage and recycling collection, some governments outsource the enforcement of laws and regulations. This paper by Olin Business School's Lamar Pierce and HBS professor Michael W. Toffel examines the automobile emissions testing market in one state where this form of regulatory enforcement has been outsourced to the private sector. Their analysis illustrates the importance of considering organizational scope and private governance mechanisms such as monitoring provided by corporate headquarters and independent third-parties in efforts to assure the reliability of firms that provide outsourced services. Read More

How to Speed Up Energy Innovation

We know the grand challenge posed by shifting away from dirty energy sources. The good news, says Harvard Business School professor Rebecca Henderson, is that we have seen such change before in fields including agriculture and biotech, giving us a clearer pathway to what it will take. Read More

Earth Day Reflections

On the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, April 22, Harvard Business School professors Robert G. Eccles, Rebecca Henderson, and Richard H.K. Vietor shared their views on the sustainability-related challenges and opportunities facing today's business leaders. Read More

The Evolution of Science-Based Business: Innovating How We Innovate

Science has long been connected to innovation and thus to the business enterprise. However, the nature of the connection between science and business in recent decades has begun to change in important ways. On the one hand, we have witnessed the decline of corporate industrial laboratories. At the same time, we have seen the emergence of a new class of entrepreneurial firms that are deeply immersed in science in sectors like biotech, nanotech, and more recently energy. HBS professor Gary P. Pisano examines the changing nature of the science-business intersection and describes the emergence of a science-based business as a novel organizational form. He also describes the institutional and organizational challenges created by this convergence. Read More

Business Summit: Business and the Environment

If the causes for global climate change are not addressed, the consequences for the planet are likely to be disastrous. Governments, business, and consumers must act. Read More

Social Influence Given (Partially) Deliberate Matching: Career Imprints in the Creation of Academic Entrepreneurs

How do people select partners for relationships? Most relationships arise from a matching process in which individuals pair on a limited number of high-priority dimensions. Although people often match on just a few attributes, it may be that some set of additional characteristics, which was not considered when a choice was made to develop the relationship, results in the social transmission of attitudes and behaviors. For this reason, social matching is only "partially" deliberate. HBS professor Toby Stuart and coauthors observe this phenomenon in an analysis of the origins and consequences of the matching of postdoctoral biomedical scientists to their faculty advisers. This work shows the imprints of postdoctoral advisers on the subsequent choices of the scientists-in-training who travel through their laboratories. The researchers' findings contribute to a burgeoning literature on the interface between academic and commercial science. Read More

Extending Producer Responsibility: An Evaluation Framework for Product Take-Back Policies

Managing products at the end of life (EOL) is of growing concern for durable goods manufacturers. While some manufacturers engage in voluntary "take back" of EOL products for a variety of competitive reasons, the past 10 years have seen the rapid proliferation of government regulations and policies requiring manufacturers to collect and recycle their products, or pay others to do so on their behalf. Toffel, Stein, and Lee develop a framework for evaluating the extent to which these product take-back regulations offer the potential to reduce the environmental impacts of these products in an effective and cost-efficient manner, while also providing adequate occupational health and safety protection. The evaluation framework is illustrated with examples drawn from take-back regulations in Europe, Japan, and the United States. Read More

Economics of the Ethanol Business

What happens when a group of Missouri corn farmers gets into the energy business? What appears to be a very lucrative decision quickly turns out to be much more risky. Professor Forest Reinhardt leads a case discussion on what the protagonists should do next. From HBS Alumni Bulletin. Read More

Responding to Public and Private Politics: Corporate Disclosure of Climate Change Strategies

Social activists are increasingly attempting to directly influence corporation behavior, using tactics such as shareholder resolutions and product boycotts to encourage companies to improve their environmental performance, increase their transparency about operations and governance, and more stringently monitor their suppliers' labor practices. This paper examines how companies are responding to these pressures, in the context of requests for greater transparency about the risks climate change poses to their business—and the strategies these companies have developed to address these risks. This paper reveals that a company is more likely to comply with social activists' requests for greater transparency about climate change when the company itself, or other companies in its industry, has been targeted by formal shareholder resolutions on environmental topics—and when the company is facing potential regulations restricting greenhouse gas emissions. These findings demonstrate that changes in corporate practices may be sparked by both social activists and by the mere threat of government regulations, and that challenges mounted against a specific firm may inspire broader changes within its industry. Read More

Creating Leaders for Science-Based Businesses

The unique challenges of managing and leading science-based businesses—certain to be a driver of this century's new economy—demand new management paradigms. At Harvard Business School, the opportunities start just across the street. From HBS Alumni Bulletin. Read More

Diffusing Management Practices within the Firm: The Role of Information Provision

Managers face a range of options to diffuse innovative practices within their organizations. This paper focuses on one such technique: providing practice-specific information through mechanisms such as internal seminars, demonstrations, knowledge management systems, and promotional brochures. In contrast to corporate mandates, this "information provision" approach empowers facility managers to decide which practices to actually implement. The authors examine how corporate managers diffused advanced environmental management practices within technology manufacturing firms in the United States. The study identifies several factors that encourage corporate managers to employ information provision, including subsidiaries' related expertise, the extent to which the subsidiaries were diversified or concentrated in similar businesses, and the geographic dispersion of their employees. Read More

How Sustainable Is Sustainability in a For-Profit Organization?

Online forum now closed. For managers, sustainability can mean the integration and intersection of social, environmental, and economic responsibilities. The concept is admirable, says Jim Heskett, but does it also confuse managers entrusted with the bottom line? How should they make trade-offs? Jim sums up reader responses. Closed for comment; 77 Comments posted.

The Political Economy of “Natural” Disasters

With the onset of global warming, it is likely that the incidence of natural shocks will only increase in the years ahead. In addition, rising inequality between rich and poor countries combined with a commitment on the part of developed countries to increase foreign aid disbursements indicates that international relief in natural disasters will grow. Disaster relief is one of the most basic and important transfers of wealth between developed and developing countries. This paper argues that the relief enters and affects a highly political situation. It also argues that the political economy of natural disasters is understandable and predictable, and may be mitigated. Read More

Mapping Polluters, Encouraging Protectors

Where are the biggest polluters? And what is your company doing to protect the environment? A new Web site—both a public service and a research tool—posts managers' data in real time, allowing a balanced view of industrial environmental performance. HBS professor Michael W. Toffel and senior research fellow Andrew A. King explain. Read More

The Ethnic Composition of U.S. Inventors

The contributions of immigrants to U.S. technology formation are staggering. While the foreign-born account for just over 10 percent of the U.S. working population, they represent 25 percent of the U.S. science and engineering workforce and nearly 50 percent of those with doctorates. Even looking within the Ph.D. level, ethnic researchers make an exceptional contribution to science as measured by Nobel Prizes, election to the National Academy of Sciences, patent citation counts, and so on. The magnitude of these ethnic contributions raises many research and policy questions: 4 examples are debates regarding the appropriate quota for H1-B temporary visas, the possible crowding out of native students from the science and engineering fields, the brain-drain or brain-circulation effect on sending countries, and the future prospects for U.S. technology leadership. This paper describes a new approach for quantifying the ethnic composition of U.S. inventors with previously unavailable detail. Read More

Self-Regulatory Institutions for Solving Environmental Problems: Perspectives and Contributions from the Management Literature

What role can business managers play in protecting the natural environment? Academic research on when it might "pay to be green" has advanced understanding of how and when firms achieve sustained competitive advantage. The focus of such research, however, has begun to change in light of limits to available "win-win" opportunities and to gaps in regulation. This paper, intended as a book chapter, reviews current literature and explores the potential of self-regulatory institutions to solve environmental problems. Read More

Industry Self-Regulation: What’s Working (and What’s Not)?

Self-regulation has been all over the news, but are firms that adopt such programs already better on important measures like labor and quality practices? Does adopting a program help companies improve faster? In this Q&A, HBS professor Michael Toffel gives a reality check and discusses the trends for managers. Read More

Will Market Forces Stop Global Warming?

HBS professor Jim Heskett sums up many creative responses from readers on the role of business in combatting global climate change. Online forum now closed. Closed for comment; 59 Comments posted.

Do Corporate Social Responsibility Ratings Predict Corporate Social Performance?

Ratings of corporations' environmental activities and capabilities influence billions of dollars of "socially responsible" investments as well as consumers, activists, and potential employees. But how well do these ratings predict socially responsible outcomes such as superior environmental performance? Companies can enhance their environmental image in one of two ways: by reducing or minimizing their impact on the environment, or by merely appearing to do so via marketing efforts or "greenwashing." This study evaluates the predictive validity of environmental ratings produced by Kinder, Lydenberg, Domini Research & Analytics (KLD), and tests whether companies that score high on KLD ratings generate superior environmental performance or whether highly rated firms are simply superior marketers of the factors that these rating agencies purport to measure. The data analysis examines all 588 large, publicly-owned companies in the United States that were both regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and whose social performance was rated by KLD at least once during 1991-2003. This paper may be the first to examine the predictive validity of social or environmental ratings. Read More

Science Business: What Happened to Biotech?

After thirty years the numbers are in on the biotech business—and it's not what we expected. The industry in aggregate has lost money. R&D performance has not radically improved. The problem? In a new book, Professor Gary Pisano points to systemic flaws as well as unhealthy tensions between science and business. Read More

Resolving Information Asymmetries in Markets: The Role of Certified Management Programs

Hundreds of thousands of firms rely on voluntary management programs to signal superior management practices to interested buyers, regulators, and local communities. Such programs typically address difficult-to-observe management attributes such as quality practices, environmental management, and human rights issues. The absence of performance standards and, in most cases, verification requirements has led critics to dismiss voluntary management programs as marketing gimmicks or "greenwash." Toffel examines whether a voluntary environmental management program with a robust verification mechanism attracts participants with superior environmental performance, and whether the program elicits improved environmental performance. His study focuses on the ISO 14001 Environmental Management System Standard, but the results have implications for voluntary management programs that govern many other difficult-to-observe management issues. Read More

Caves, Clusters, and Weak Ties: The Six Degrees World of Inventors

Your company's scientists and investors can be antennas that bring great ideas into your company. The key, says HBS professor Lee Fleming, is understanding small-world networks. Read More

How Do We Prepare for a World Without Cheap Oil?

How should the world (and firms, and countries) best adjust to an age of more expensive energy? Among the possible alternatives for tackling the problem, three seem to stand out. Closed for comment; 43 Comments posted.

Going Green Makes Good Business Sense

Green can be good, says HBS professor Forest L. Reinhardt. In a recent reunion session for alumni, he outlined how environmentally-minded company policies can make good strategic sense for business. Here are some strategies you might consider. Read More

Bringing the Environment Down to Earth

Does it pay to be green? When it comes to questions about business and the environment, says HBS Professor Forest L. Reinhardt, there are no simple yes-or-no answers. In this excerpt from his article in the Harvard Business Review, Reinhardt stresses the importance of applying traditional business principles to environmental issues. Read More

Confronting the Challenges that Face Bricks-and-Mortar Stores

How dramatically have the Internet and other new technologies changed the retail landscape? Do the old fundamentals of the industry no longer apply? Harvard Business Review asked three retail executives and two distinguished academics for their perspectives on technology and retail trade. In this excerpt, Professor Raymond Burke of Indiana University tells how retail executives can prepare for the future while keeping the basics of their business in mind. Read More