Research

IGEL’s business and faculty advisors collaborate to identify solution-oriented, world-class research topics. Some recent topics include: exploring and comparing benchmarks and metrics for environmental performance in leading companies across different countries; examining how consumers and investors process environmentally relevant business information and use it to make purchasing and investment choices; and reviewing the mechanics of new regulations and social norms regarding the emission of greenhouse gases and trading markets and how they work.

Click through the links on the left to see our Knowledge@Wharton reports, our faculty publications and our student research.

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Latest reports:

March 2013 
Disrupting the World’s Oldest Industry 

Nature wastes nothing. Human beings are less frugal. We have been generating garbage for thousands of years, and are only now starting to confront the reality that our waste streams are poisoning the planet. Governments have begun to regulate how we dispose of what we no longer want; large corporations are working to find sustainable solutions that are also profitable; and smaller “green” companies and non-profits are aiming for zero-waste-to-landfill, which may be as close as we can come to the example set by nature.

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December 2013 Special Report
The Green Sports Movement
It was Robert Redford, a trustee of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), who first suggested that sports are the key to vastly extending environmental awareness in this country. Looking back on that moment in 2004, Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist at the NRDC, wondered why it took so long. “It’s crazy,” he said. “It took the environmental community more than 30 years from the first Earth Day to partner with sports. It was the elephant in the room. Only 13% of Americans follow science, but 63% follow sports.”

In September, the Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (IGEL) and the NRDC jointly sponsored a Wharton conference on Leadership in Greening the Sports Industry. This special report includes information shared at the conference and gathered from experts in the field.

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October 2013
Disasters, Leadership and Rebuilding – Tough Lessons from Japan and the U.S.
On March 11, 2011, deep below the surface of the Pacific Ocean, enormous seismic forces reached a tipping point. At 2:46 p.m., one of the earth’s tectonic plates suddenly shifted, thrusting violently underneath another. The North American plate was pushed upward with such force that the movement generated a massive tsunami. It took the wall of moving water 51 minutes to reach the coast of Japan, some 45 miles away.

In some places, the tsunami towered more than 125 feet above the ground when it hit. Thankfully, the height of the wave was far less where it came ashore near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant — “only” 50 feet high. Still, the nuclear disaster caused by the earthquake and tsunami has been rated by the International Atomic Energy Agency as equal in severity to the 1986 accident at Chernobyl, the worst nuclear disaster on record.

The complex catastrophe — earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown — killed close to 20,000 people, displaced hundreds of thousands more and contaminated a large swathe of beautiful countryside for decades or longer. More than two years later, Japan is still struggling to recover and prevent even more devastation.

On May 24, 2013, the Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (IGEL) sponsored a panel at the Wharton Global Forum in Tokyo to consider the leadership lessons generated by the Fukushima disaster, and to look at its impact on Japan’s energy policy and the resettlement of afflicted areas.

2013-06-26 Nexus of Food Energ-Water_Page_01July 2013 Special Report
The Nexus of Food, Energy and Water
More than one billion people lack access to clean drinking water, sufficient food and electricity. Meanwhile, the global population is growing by some 80 million people every year. By 2030, the nine billion people living on earth will need 30% more water, 40% more energy and 50% more food to survive.

Given the complex relationships among all three resources — the nexus of food, energy and water — meeting these demands will require thinking in terms of systems, not silos. It will take collaborative approaches that embrace rather than battle natural processes. And it will mean new technologies and approaches to everything from bio-fuels to desalination. This special report, produced in coordination with Wharton’s Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (IGEL), takes a close look at the key issues.

2013_05_The Rapid Rise of Green Building_Page_01May 2013 Special Report
The Rapid Rise of Green Building

Nobody can deny that the sustainable building movement’s rise has been meteoric. In a 2012 Turner Construction survey of 718 U.S. real estate owners, developers and tenants, 90% were committed to environmentally sustainable practices. More than half were “extremely” or “very” committed to green principles. And a 2013 McGraw-Hill Construction global report found that 51% of architects, engineers, contractors, consultants and building owners surveyed in 62 countries say it’s likely that more than 60% of their work will be “green” by 2015.

Last year, there were more than 13,500 commercial buildings certified to meet the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards in the U.S. Another 30,000 applied, and LEED has spread to 139 countries. Green building is maturing, especially in American cities, which are developing innovative regulations outcomes. Even without new laws, forward-looking companies find options — such as the use of energy services companies, green leasing and affordable approaches to solar and other renewables. They’re motivated by more than “eco correctness” — adding sustainable features reduces operating costs (and often increases a building’s value and the rent levels it can command), though payback periods can be long.

Some strategists go beyond more modest standards to the “net zero” building that generates as much energy as it uses. Cities are developing their own audit and energy management procedures, often using software unavailable 10 years ago. Clearly, green building has gone from a feel-good exercise to an impending baseline for all construction.

March 2013 Special Report
Next Stop, Innovation: What’s Ahead for Urban Mobility?

Transportation in the 21st century is entering a robust phase that mirrors the early years of the automobile, when gasoline, steam and electric technology vied for market share. Although electric cars led for a while, the internal-combustion engine reached dominance by 1920, with profound effects on American city-based public transportation — which atrophied as car ownership grew.

Today, urban transit is making a comeback, as is the electric car. Congested highways still face emission concerns, but consumers now often have the choice of light and heavy rail. Car sharing, which began as a European phenomenon, has prospered in U.S. urban centers, along with bicycle sharing, vanpooling and other options.

Government plays a major role in shaping efficient urban transportation systems. So far, regulations have proven an effective driver in the early development of new technology. But for ultimate success, environmentally friendly options also must satisfy consumers’ needs and meet economic goals. This special report, produced in coordination with Wharton’s Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (IGEL), explores how cities are expanding their options for cleaner transportation, and how new technologies, innovations and incentives are revitalizing the sector.

Check out the interview with Gary Survis and the new video: Funding Innovation for Cleaner Cities.

September 2012 Special Report
The Pathways to Sustainability in Emerging Economies

During Wharton’s Global Alumni Forum in Jakarta, Indonesia in June, IGEL organized a panel to discuss protecting natural resources and sustainable development. The report explores government regulation, non-profit work, and the palm oil, ecotourism and pulp and paper industries.