Turning the Ship: Five Weeks of Dialogue on Sustainable Business

While a number of recognizable companies have jumped into the vanguard of sustainable business thinking, many, many more still struggle with reconciling the environmental impact of their products and practices with the bottom line. On February 5th, the Harvard School of Design, the Clarke Group, 1% for the Planet, and GreenBiz.com began a five-week online discussion aimed at "exploring the market forces that are already driving change and the tools that companies are using to become more sustainable." In his opening blog post, Clarke partner and Harvard Loeb Fellow Brian Kuehl compared the current challenges facing the business world with the manufacturing transformation that occurred after the US' entrance into World War II:
Today, America is facing a challenge of a different sort. One that we have been slow to face, believing perhaps that our involvement may not be necessary or that the cost will be too great. But once again, it is becoming clear that this threat cannot be avoided and must be confronted head-on. And once again, the American economy is being called upon to undertake a dramatic transformation to assure victory.
The online discussion, hosted at Greenbiz, devotes each of the five weeks to a specific fundamental topic: "The Green Wave" ("Causes, Drivers, and Magnitude of the On-going Market Shift"), Purchasing, Finance, Manufacturing and Infrastructure. At the conclusion of these discussions, participants will gather on March 13 at Cambridge, Massachusetts' Genzyme Center (a platinum-rated LEED Building) for a roundtable discussion of market and policy options that can further facilitate "turning the ship" of business towards more sustainable practices.

The whole discussion promises to be both fascinating and challenging, and we're encouraged to see that more events focused on bringing business leaders together to discuss sustainability are happening all the time. As Kuehl notes, the environmental issues facing not only the business world, but all of us, can seem overwhelming. These kinds of dialogues are absolutely necessary to catalyze further business change that recognizes economics exist within the framework of the natural world. ::Greenbiz.com and The Clarke Group