Problems like climate change, resource depletion, and pollution can seem so large as to be beyond the capacity of any individual person, or even corporation, to address. Peter Bakker, president of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, argues that business leaders can take a first step by incorporating sustainability concerns into how they think about risk management.
Perhaps the strongest argument for environmental sustainability within an organization is that it is critical to the mission. Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army Richard Kidd ’93 explains why strategic thinking about sustainability is essential for the military.
The $1.5 trillion mining and metals sector supplies the feedstock for a large part of everyday life—from coal for power, to iron ore for steel girders, to the minerals and metals that are processed into the components of your iPhone. John Lichtenstein '83, a consultant and 30-year veteran of the sector, describes the state of this global industry and how one country—China—has an outsize influence on commodity prices everywhere.
A country runs out of drinkable water. What's its next move? And how will its actions affect neighboring countries? The national security community has developed data, expertise, and plans for responding to threats caused by environmental problems.
When solar panel manufacturer Solyndra went bankrupt after receiving millions in federal loan guarantees, some said that the government should stop interfering in energy markets. Nancy Pfund and Ben Healey show that the U.S. government has a long history of subsidizing emerging forms of energy, dating back to the 19th century.
There's a recycling bin on every doorstep, as cities push to recycle as much solid waste as possible. But Lanny Hickman, the former executive director of the Solid Waste Association of North America, says that we should think of recycling as just one more way to remove solid waste, with its own costs and benefits. He argues that we waste an opportunity by not converting more of our garbage into electricity.
Yale University is striving to integrate sustainability into the institution's operations, as well as its educational and research functions. Julie Newman, the director of Yale's office of sustainability, discusses the efforts at Yale and across higher education.
The field of industrial ecology seeks to provide definite answers to such questions as whether it's better to read a book in paper or electronic form or whether garbage dumps might become more efficient sources of some metals than mines. By tracking energy and material flows and producing product life-cycle assessments, researchers in the field attempt to take a systems perspective on environmental concerns.
Harish Hande is the founder of SELCO, a social enterprise established in 1995. The company provides sustainable energy solutions and services to under-served households and businesses in rural parts of Karnataka and Gujarat. Can this "open-source organization" provide a model for powering economic development without devastating the environment?