8 Ways To Be An Environmentally Conscious Manager

What does it mean to bring your individual environmental values to work every day? Here's how eco-friendly managers can practice what they preach.
by Sean Silverthorne

In an interview about his recent book Profits and Sustainability, which portrays the iconoclastic entrepreneurs who built green startups in the 19th century, Harvard Business School historian Geoffrey Jones notes that being a business-environmentalist can be hard work.

"The green entrepreneurs in this book broke with multiple conventions. Not surprisingly, they were often treated by contemporaries as crazy. It turns out that yesterday’s crazies are the historical origins of the sustainable world of the future," says Jones.

With growing awareness that planet-friendly values don't necessarily conflict with making a profit, business leaders today don't face such formidable challenges to their views. Still, what can managers do to ensure that their industries, their companies, their workplaces, their work, support the environment? Here are ideas from HBS researchers.

Follow your values

Stella McCartney Combines High Fashion with Environmental Values

Fashion designer Stella McCartney shows that luxury and sustainability need not be mutually exclusive in a case study by Anat Keinan.

Demonstrate bottom-line returns

3 Ways Firms Can Profit From Environmental Investments

Rebecca Henderson lays out three ways for firms to profit from investing in environmental sustainability: forestalling risk, increasing operational efficiency, and selling to the environmental niche.

Build a new role for yourself

Who Is the Chief Sustainability Officer?

There are only a few dozen chief sustainability officers in American companies, although their number has been growing rapidly. A new study by George Serafeim and  Kathleen Millerexplains who they are, where they come from, and how to make them more effective.

Think big

More Than 900 Examples of How Climate Change Affects Business

MBA students participating in Harvard Business School’s Climate Change Challenge offer ideas on how companies can negate impacts from a changing environment.

Understand that solutions don’t come easily

‘Big Teaming,’ Audacious Innovation, and the Uncompleted Dream of a Smart City

How do you organize a project that spans professions, industries, and even nations? A new book by Amy Edmondson and Susan Salter Reynolds describes the approach of 'big teaming' with a case study of a high-profile smart city.

Don’t be afraid to be a little out there

Meet the Oddball Entrepreneurs Who Invented Green Businesses

It was entrepreneurs from the fringes-of-society who gave birth to the green business movement starting in the 19th century, Geoffrey Jones tells us.


Teaching Climate Change to Skeptics

The Business and Environment Initiative at Harvard Business School aims to shift the debate about climate change from a political discussion to a practical conversation about risk and reward.

Identify eco-friendly partners

Should Industry Competitors Cooperate More to Solve World Problems?

George Serafeim has a theory that if industry competitors collaborated more, big world problems could start to be addressed. Is that even possible in a market economy?

Research Papers

The Environmental Legacies of The North Face's Doug Tompkins and Patagonia's Yvon Chouinard

Shareholder Activism on Sustainability Issues

What do you think about this research?
How do you incorporate earth-friendly values into your work? Add your comment to this story below.

Post A Comment

In order to be published, comments must be on-topic and civil in tone, with no name calling or personal attacks. Your comment may be edited for clarity and length.