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.
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Recycling Electronic Waste
The rapid pace of technological progress has revolutionized any number of industries. It has also generated a huge and rapidly growing toxic waste stream that threatens people’s health, the environment and even national security. This report looks at the scale and nature of the challenges posed by e-waste and how they might best be met.
People have been sharing things with each other for millennia, and yet for the first time, this ancient form of exchange is transforming commerce through technology. Call it the sharing economy or the light-asset economy, it is disrupting traditional business practices and provoking countermoves, particularly in the regulatory sphere. Whether all this sharing is as good for the environment as it would seem remains to be proven. But although some roadblocks may be thrown up, it’s already clear that the sharing economy is here to stay. In this special report, sponsored by Rubicon, Knowledge@Wharton teamed up with the Wharton Initiative for Environmental Leadership to look into some of the key issues around this growing trend.
Feeding the World
There are hungry people everywhere. The situation is most dire in the developing world, where the population is slated to increase sharply by 2050, and where there is neither enough food to feed the rapidly growing population nor the infrastructure to store, transport and distribute what food there is. Dramatic urbanization further complicates the picture. The situation is very different in the U.S., which produces far more food than its relatively slow-growing population consumes, but still has millions of residents who don’t know from day to day whether or not they will have enough to eat. Common to hunger in both the developed and developing world are the twin scourges of poverty and, paradoxically, obesity (entrenched in the U.S., and rising fast just about everywhere else). But the specific challenges to feeding the hungry are different in the two regions, as are the most promising solutions.
Keeping climate change within manageable bounds will take a massive global effort, requiring the skills and resources of both public and private sectors. Whether or not we collectively can summon the will to succeed remains an open question. What is not open to debate is the critical need to answer two key questions: Do we have the technology to make the transition, and can we find a way to pay for it? In this special report, Knowledge@Wharton has teamed up with the Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (IGEL) to explore these questions.
Health care has a sizeable impact on the environment. Hospitals are the second-most energy-intensive commercial buildings in the U.S. and the industry is responsible for 8% of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. The impact of the environment on health care is just as significant. One often-cited study from 2002 shows that social and environmental factors vastly outweigh medical care in determining people’s health. All of which begs the question, how do we spark meaningful dialogue between sustainability and health care professionals? This special report, produced by the Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership and Knowledge@Wharton, looks at the key issues stakeholders need to understand to address this question.
The U.S. public water system needs a massive, long-deferred investment if it is to meet the needs of a growing population. Neither the public nor the private sector alone is up to the challenge, but a growing number of public-private partnerships is providing a template for how government and business together can help build, renovate and maintain the water infrastructure America desperately needs. This special report, produced by the Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership and Knowledge@Wharton, looks at the key issues stakeholders need to understand.
Sustainability in the Age of Big Data
Big data is changing everything… Including sustainability. The massive amounts of data around the sustainability space are beginning to be harnessed to deliver meaningful results to organizations’ sustainability initiatives and tackle some of the world’s most pressing environmental issues. The goal of this conference-workshop was to provide insight, research perspectives, and solutions for organizations as they begin to grapple with the power of data that has the capacity to dramatically change business and sustainability initiatives.
Integrating Environmental and Human Health
Sustainable health care is a work in progress. While virtually everyone recognizes the need for the industry to reduce its considerable impact on the environment, sustainability is rarely a high priority among decision makers at U.S. hospitals. There is so much short-term uncertainty and financial pressure in the industry today that it’s hard for many administrators and supply chain managers to focus on what seem to be secondary, long-term issues.
The April 2014 report highlights Johnson and Johnson’s efforts in reducing energy consumption, supply chain management, reducing waste, improving service and phasing out toxic and hazardous substances.
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.
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.
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.
July 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.
May 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.
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.