What Would You Ask Hunter Lovins?

The following is a guest post by our friends at Bard College’s MBA in Sustainability Program (a 3p sponsor) – for the business leaders of the future who recognize the importance of all business moving towards true sustainability—economic, environmental, and social.
By Eban Goodstein

As part of the Bard MBA Sustainable Business Series, I am holding a “Conversation with Hunter Lovins” next Monday night (March 5th) in New York City, and I’d love to know what you would ask Hunter if you had the chance to sit down with her. For over thirty years, Lovinshas been at the center of developing the key idea in business sustainability: that protecting and restoring the earth not only can be profitable, but that, in fact, profitable solutions are the only kinds that can scale fast enough to change the future.

Five questions I am thinking about:

  • How was the sustainability paradigm shaped at Rocky Mountain Institute in the early 1980’s, and how did it evolve through the 90’s and today?
  • Paul Hawken’s Ecology of Commerce was in some ways a precursor to your book with Paul and Amory Lovins, Natural Capitalism; how do you see the books complementing or working with one another?
  • With Michael Porter’s latest argument that pursuit of “shared value” is the foundation of successful firms, does this mean that conventional business education will rapidly move teaching sustainability to the core of their curricula?
  • Some are calling this the “decade of implementation” for sustainability – time for mature initiatives to show the scope of what is possible. Do you agree?
  • How, if at all, is Climate Capitalism different than Natural Capitalism?

Please let me know your questions for Hunter Lovins, and I’ll get back to you with some of her answers next week. In New York City and interested in attending? Register here!

Eban Goodstein is the Director of the Bard MBA in Sustainability and Bard Center for Environmental Policy

The Bard MBA in Sustainability focuses on the business case for sustainability. We train students to see how firms can integrate economic, environmental, and social objectives, the triple Bottom Line, to create successful businesses that build a more sustainable world. Graduates of the Bard MBA Program will transform existing companies, start their own businesses, and pioneer new ways of operating that meet human needs, while protecting and restoring the earth’s natural systems. The Bard MBA is a low-residency program structured around “weekend intensives” with regular online instruction between these residencies. Five of these intensives are held each term: four in the heart of New York City and one in the Hudson Valley. Residencies take place over four days, beginning Friday morning, and ending Monday afternoon. Learn more today.

10 responses

    1. Two answers: one short term and one longer:

      This is the year of employee engagement. It’s the hot topic at conferences, and it’s what we’re being asked to help companies implement. No surprise: the recent Gallop poll shows that American workers have never been this UNhappy. This disengagement, they calculate, is responsible for $300 billion in lost productivity per year. Conversely, an engaged workforce is much more productive and delivers 4 times the earnings per share growth rate. Young people (92% of the Millennials surveyed by Monstertrak) say that they do want to work for a company that is environmentally responsible. Natural Capitalism offers webinars, and rapid e-learning tools for companies to train their people in sustainability. These tools  align the values of the best talent in a company with what the organization is doing to promote more sustainable practices. See http://www.natcapsolutions.org to sign up for the next webinar on these tools.

      But the real answer is that the field must come to grips with the fact that we’re losing the race to preserve life as we know it on this planet. The 2010 report, Global Biodiveristy Three, makes it clear – three of the earth’s major ecosystems are tipping into collapse: Coral reefs: business as usual and there will be no coral reefs on planet earth by the end of this century. the Amazon is now a carbon source not sink. And the oceans are acidifying. Climate change is the most proximate challenge, already creating more violent weather, droughts in the horn of Africa where millions of people are now climate refugees. We have to lift from poverty the half of humanity that lives on less than $2 a day, and do so in a way that decarbonizes our economy. 

      The good news is that we have all the technologies we need to do this. Doing this will unleash the greatest prosperity the world has ever know, create jobs and deliver a far higher quality of life.

      This is why I teach at BGI, why we are creating this new MBA in sustainability at Bard, and why I am now typing to you from a hotel room in New York City, rather than sitting on my porch in the Rocky Mountain sunrise over my ranch.

      Let’s do it

  1. Looking back on where we were decades ago, what do you think has been our greatest progression for the environment as a country? What area(s) did you think we’d be better in, but still have a ways to go today?

    1. We’ve made real progress in cleaning our air, in getting the worst of industrial toxins our of our rivers: they no longer catch on fire.

      I would say that the greatest accomplishment is making clear that there is a business case for sustainability. When Walmart and the US Military are pledging to go 100% renewable, we’ve come a long way.But we’ve a long way to go. From ecocatastrophes like the BP spill, to the advent of frankenfoods – GMO crops like Monsanto’s new sweet corn – we continue to pollute our environment and our bodies. Our economy is at risk of collapse from run-ups in the price of oil. We are living in the time of the greatest extinction of species since the dinosaurs died out. As mentioned above, scientific studies like GBO 3, and the Planetary Boundaries work from Stockhold Resilience Center show just how grave our peril is.But we’ve a long way to go. It is profitable now to cut our energy use in half. Cities in Europe are making millions each year selling their excess solar and wind energy. We should be retrofitting all of our cities, buildings, industries. Studies like Next Ten’s in California show that doing this in CA would add over 400,000 new jobs and save the state $76 billion. What are we waiting for?

  2. What’s it take to get sustainability really embedded into the DNA of an organization?  Can if be a grassroots effort, or does it have to come from a CEO who “gets it” ?

    1. Hi Matthew, 

      Take a deep look at your life. What is the biggest aspect of your footprint? Act to reduce it. For example, the biggest part of my footprint is my flying: “burning carbon to save the climate.”

      Natural Capitalism is a member of Chicago Climate Exchange, so all of my travel, and all of our office footprint is offset. You can do this too through Carbon Fund. In addition, I weatherized my home, and put a 5 kW solar system on the ranch. 

      For a list of all the things that you can do, see my book, Climate Capitalism, or the forthcoming paperback version: the Way Out: Kickstating Capitalism to Save Our Economic Ass, available mid-April.

      But as my old friend Kate Wolf said, “find what you really care about, and live a life that shows it.”

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