Why is industry often “taking the lead” in sustainability right now?
Sustainable Business

Michael Lenox and Tate Moeller discuss why companies are going public with their sustainability targets.

Tate Moeller (00:10):

Based on since the publication of your book, maybe it’s today’s political climate or industry growth, we’ve seen in different companies setting ambitious sustainability goals with a timeline as quick as 2020 to 2025. Do you see industry taking the lead over public policy groups?

Michael Lenox (00:35):

I don’t know if I’d say “taking the lead.” I think there’s been a gradual awakening to the importance of these issues in corporate America or really the last 20 years or so. I think it’s rare to find a corporate boardroom now that isn’t thinking about their environmental impact, the sustainability of their, of their efforts. I think one of the interesting things in our current political environment, especially with how divisive it is, is that companies are finding, they’re being forced to take positions where in the past, they might’ve been able to stay quiet and in the background and not want to enter the fray. That is not being allowed to them for them via either the customers or other stakeholders and activists. Companies are realizing that they have to take a stand. They have to be active in how they manage this. And one of the messages I always give my students is, at the end of the day, you actually have quite a bit of discretion as a manager of how you want to operate your business and for what purpose you’re driving your business forward on. It’s not necessarily for me to tell you what those purposes are, what those factors should be, but do you understand you have discretion and choice? I think what managers are realizing now that they have to articulate a set of values. They have to communicate those to their broad set of stakeholders and they are being forced to state those values in public in ways that they hadn’t in the past. And I think those trends are going to continue.

Lenox is the Tayloe Murphy Professor of Business Administration, Senior Associate Dean, and Chief Strategy Officer at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business.

Moeller is the Director of Sustainability Solutions at Minneapolis-based 2DegreesCooler™.

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