MIT Sloan Executive Education innovation@work Blog

Category: Sustainability and Business

Bridging the divide at the holiday table: Three tips from Jason Jay

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 2 months and 29 days ago

Thanksgiving Discussion

Meaningful conversations about big issues can be challenging—and these days there is no shortage of big issues. Many of us in the U.S. are bracing for the Thanksgiving table, where family will convene over dinner but potentially divide over hot-button topics like politics and climate change. Unfortunately, conversations that end in gridlock can be damaging to our relationships. So how can we turn these conversations around, and embrace the results? Read these three tips from MIT Sloan's Jason Jay.

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A carbon commitment worth keeping

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 9 months and 26 days ago

Advocate for Carbon Tax

It’s Earth Day. Like New Year’s Eve, it’s an occasion that often results in resolutions, some harder to keep than others. Maybe you resolved to eat less meat, recycle more, bike to work, or install solar energy. However, it’s easy to feel that your actions aren’t enough. And you’re right—they are necessary but not sufficient. “Our fight against climate change depends on both personal and collective action,” says Jason Jay, Senior Lecturer and Director of the Sustainability Initiative at MIT Sloan. “To make a measurable difference, we need to catalyze change at the level of companies, cities, states, and nations.”

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MIT Sloan Professor John Sterman elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 year and 1 month and 16 days ago

John Sterman 250

In recognition of his “distinguished contributions to improving decision-making in complex systems—including corporate strategy and operations, energy policy, public health, environmental sustainability, and climate change"—MIT Sloan Professor John Sterman was elected as a 2017 Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Fellows are elected by their peers for their contributions to science and technology, scientific leadership, and extraordinary achievements across disciplines.

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Taking #OurAccord personally for Earth Day

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 year and 9 months and 29 days ago

Taking #OurAccord personally for Earth Day

People often think of climate change as a policy issue, one that is best dealt with through legislation and mandates. In fact, when MIT Sloan Professor John Sterman presented a webinar on the topic, The Dynamics of Climate Change—from the Political to the Personal, one of the questions asked by the audience was how they can take political action to help solve the climate change problem. Sterman reminded them that solving the climate change problem does not have to be something only addressed on the scale of the Paris Accord. Local governments and even individuals can play a role in changing day-to-day behaviors that ultimately impact the world in which we live.

"In the face of uncertainty, it's all the more important to express and act on support for #OurAccord at individual, relational, and organizational levels," said MIT Sloan Senior Lecturer Jason Jay in a recent post, referring to current politics. "At the individual level, we can all work toward a healthy, vibrant, low-carbon lifestyle. At the relational level, we must build our skills in going beyond the choir and having conversations about climate change and sustainability with people who don't agree with us." Jay's most recent book, Breaking Through Gridlock: The Power of Conversation in a Polarized World, offers tools for conducting the difficult conversations we must have about climate change.

The Greenovate Awards

Take, for example, the 10th Annual Greenovate Boston Awards. Coinciding with Earth Day, this year's awards will recognize outstanding achievement in climate action and environmental sustainability in the Boston community. Award categories include waste reduction, sustainable food, alternative transportation, and community engagement, among others.

While finalists for these awards feature corporate initiatives, government officials, and nonprofits focused on environmental issues, they also include many individuals from various Boston neighborhoods. Here are just a few.

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Sustainability tools demystified: MIT Sloan launches SHIFT

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 year and 11 months ago

There are a seemingly endless number of sustainability challenges to solve, and an equal number of tools with which to address them. If you’re a sustainability practitioner, you might feel overwhelmed with number of resources available. Consultants, academics, and companies all create tools and guides to help practitioners—each with a slightly different approach. How do you whittle down the hundreds of carbon footprint tools available, for example, to find the best tools for your purposes?

While having a lot of tools is typically a good thing, wading through this glut of resources can slow companies down in the journey toward sustainability—and even prevent them from implementing sustainability measures altogether.

Enter SHIFT (short for Sustainability Help, Information, Frameworks, and Tools), an online aggregator that helps its users find, compare, and choose the correct sustainability tools for research and business purposes. A cross-sector collaboration led by the Sustainability Initiative at MIT Sloan and Valutus, the mission of SHIFT is to make it easier for leaders at all stages of development to “hardwire” sustainability into their organizations. SHIFT is both a platform of resources and a community of practitioners working together to curate and review tools based on their own experiences. The platform also includes curricula that combines resources into a sequence that supports individual and organizational learning.

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What does the Trump administration mean for climate change efforts?

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 1 year and 11 months and 30 days ago

climate change policy

On November 4, 2016, the historic Paris Agreement on climate change policy (#OurAccord) became international law. "Humanity will look back on November 4, 2016, as the day that countries of the world shut the door on inevitable climate disaster," said UN climate chief Patricia Espinosa and Moroccan Foreign Minister Salaheddine Mezouar in a joint statement that day.

Four days later, on November 8, Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. And overnight, the set of policies required to fulfill the promises of the Paris Accord were under threat.

Here's what we know. President Trump has called human-caused climate change a hoax. He has vowed to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency "in almost every form." Trump has attacked Obama's Clean Power Plan as "a war on coal." And, perhaps most significantly, he has promised to renege on the U.S. pledge under the Paris Agreement, which commits more than 190 countries to reduce their emissions of planet-warming carbon dioxide pollution.

And so now, we wait.

However, as recently reported by ClimateWire, "For every conservative who dreams about ripping up the Paris Agreement, there's a company executive who wants to stay in." Shortly after the election, hundreds of U.S. businesses urged Trump to uphold the Paris climate deal. More than 360 companies and investors--from DuPont, eBay, and Nike to Unilever, Levi Strauss & Co., and Hilton--made their plea in an open letter to the incoming and outgoing administrations and members of Congress. (The signatories have since grown to over 700.)

And many companies are walking the walk. In a recent press release, Google announced it will reach 100% renewable energy and carbon neutrality in 2017. Iron Mountain signed a 15-year wind power purchase agreement that will supply 30% of its North American electricity needs with renewable energy. And here in Boston, MIT, Boston Medical Center, and Post Office Square Redevelopment Corporation have formed an alliance to buy electricity from a large new solar power installation, adding carbon-free energy to the grid and demonstrating a partnership model for other organizations in climate-change mitigation efforts.

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Fast fashion: What's the true cost of a bargain?

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 2 years and 3 months and 6 days ago

fashion waste

American consumers love a bargain. In fact, consumers will often choose a bargain over ideals; this past spring an Associated Press-GFK poll found that, "when it comes to purchasing clothes, the majority of Americans prefer cheap prices over a Made in the USA label." This, despite decades of political rhetoric about the need to bring manufacturing jobs back to America.

But there's a bigger, hidden cost behind our love of a deal—particularly our love of cheap clothing. In today's market, there's no shortage of options for buying amazingly inexpensive, yet trendy clothing, including big box stores, "fast fashion" stores such as H&M and Primark, and off-shore clothing retailers advertising on Facebook. Some of the messaging inherent in these brands is that the items are so cheap, it's OK to purchase them for only one wear. You can buy that novelty sweater for the "ugly sweater holiday party" or any other frivolous clothing item for a one-time event. After all, it cost less than a night out, or even an entrée at many restaurants.

However, the dirty little secret that these retailers, manufacturers, and their supply chains don't share is the true cost of the disposable clothing industry. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, "15.1 million tons of textile waste was generated in 2013, of which 12.8 million tons were discarded." According to MSNBC, "10 percent of the world's total carbon footprint comes from the fashion industry, and apparel is the second largest polluter of fresh water globally."

The fast fashion industry not only generates textile waste, but the economics behind it demand the clothes be produced using massive amounts of cheap material and cheap labor. This means relying on the laborers at the very lowest end of the wage spectrum in countries with few protections for workers. While the fashion industry on the whole is a job creator, many of those equate to low wages, forced labor, unhealthy and dangerous working conditions, and even child labor, which is now rampant through apparel supply chains.

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Next steps for C-ROADS and climate change

Posted by MIT Sloan Executive Education - 2 years and 4 months and 25 days ago

Earlier this spring, MIT Sloan Professor John Sterman presented an important and well-attended live webinar, The Dynamics of Climate Change--from the Political to the Personal. One of the highlights of the webinar was a live demonstration of C-ROADS (Climate Rapid Overview and Decision Support) a free, award-winning computer simulation that helps people understand the long-term climate impacts of policy scenarios to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In the live Q&A sessions immediately following the webinar, Sterman fielded a great number of questions from the audience. However, there were simply more questions than could be answered in the time allotted. We recently posed three of the larger, unanswered questions to Sterman, and we have shared his responses below.

What's next for C-ROADS?
The next steps for C-ROADS are driven by the negotiations and conversations occurring during the Paris climate agreements. First, there will be a new interface that will be easier to use and more widely available. (You can view a video preview of it here). And while the team behind C-ROADS will continue to work with negotiators and policymakers, they are also actively seeking to increase the number of skilled users. If you are interested in learning how to use C-ROADS in any setting--from the classroom to the community room to the boardroom--you can join the movement at:

The team behind C-ROADS also has a number of other related projects in the prototype phase, one of which is EN-ROADS, a simulation tool (similar to C-ROADS) for understanding how we can achieve our energy transition and climate goals through changes in energy use, consumption, and policies. The tool focuses on how changes in global GDP, energy efficiency, R&D results, carbon price, fuel mix, and other factors change carbon emissions, energy access, and temperature. It is ideal for decision-makers in government, business, NGOs, and civil society.

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