Businesses, the Public, and Researchers All Play Key Roles in Shaping Circular Systems

Today, a staggering 91% of all resources extracted are wasted. How can the economic system become more sustainable? Many people advocate moving to a “circular economy.” In contrast with today’s “linear” model, a circular approach keeps resources in circulation through reuse and repair.

But what does a circular economy actually look like and how do we get there? What steps do businesses need to take, and how can they partner with others? How can researchers help them make the shift?

In the first of NBS’s new Livestream series, NBS Executive Director Tima Bansal sat down with two circular economy experts…

The Importance of Incorporating Reflection, Adaptation, and Practice to Shape Workplace Choices

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When Rupal Patel launched technology firm VocaliD, she was founding a new field. As someone committed to ethical business, she had to deal with traditional ethical challenges as well as the uncertainty of a new technology.

Ethical issues are baked into business. Maybe it’s how employees are treated, or what kinds of products are sold. Many decisions have a moral element, where choices may be seen as wrong by some in society.

How can managers and companies identify ethical options and make them a reality? …

3 Ideas for Transforming an Ethical and Environmental Problem into a Business Opportunity

“The Basics” series by the Network for Business Sustainability provides essential knowledge about core business sustainability topics. This article was written by Heeseung Kim.

Food waste is an ethical problem. Globally, 1.3 billion tons of food go to waste, while 1 in 11 people —nearly 690 million— face hunger. Food waste is also an economic and environmental problem. Resources that go into producing uneaten food, like labor, natural resources, and fertilizer, are wasted.

So the bad news is there’s a long way to go when it comes to reducing food waste. But there’s also opportunity and potential for innovation. …

Efforts to Get Detroit’s Water System Back on Track Provide a Model for Collaborative Change

By Dr. Wren Montgomery

There’s a reason sustainability challenges are called “wicked” problems. Sustainability issues tend to be complicated, involving many stakeholders and lacking clear solutions.

That’s true for the issue closest to my heart: water.

Water is essential, but it’s also limited and can be threatened by overuse or pollution. That’s a problem for people — individuals — and for businesses.

But I’ve seen that broad coalitions can make serious headway on even a big sustainability challenge like water.

For eight years, I have studied the water system in Detroit, where I saw a coalition build across the community…

3 Strategies for Shaping Curriculum to Create a More Resilient, Inclusive Economy

By Dr. Tima Bansal, a Professor at the Ivey Business School and Executive Director of the Network for Business Sustainability

When I first taught sustainability to business school students — almost 20 years ago — they pushed back hard. In their course evaluations, they criticized the content and questioned the relevance of sustainability in a business school.

A few students still question sustainability content, but there has been a clear shift in student sentiment in the last few years. Most business school students are asking for more sustainability content. …

Discover the Topics That Are Top of Mind for Stakeholders

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Sustainability is a huge area with a lot of elements. At NBS, we wanted to know where to focus our attention. What’s on managers’ minds? What sustainability information do people most want?

To answer these questions, NBS’s Marketing Communications Officer, Adanma Onuoha, analyzed the sustainability terms that people were searching on the Internet.

She found six priorities within the general area of sustainability. People want to know what these concepts are, why they matter, and how they relate to businesses and everyday life.

These priorities are relevant for companies as well. They suggest what areas might be top of mind…

In industrial symbiosis, firms exchange materials, energy, water, and waste — and the benefits are often financial and environmental.

Uncovering the Potential of Industrial Symbiosis

In Britain, a fine china manufacturer broke the occasional plate as it turned out its plates and bowls. Instead of pitching broken crockery in the dumpster, the company sold the material to a nearby brick maker.

This is industrial symbiosis. In biology, symbiosis means a close association between different species, often benefiting each. In industrial symbiosis, the “species” are different companies, producing and using different materials. Nearby firms exchange materials, energy, water, and waste — and the benefits are often financial and environmental.

“Firms can often get cash for trash,” says Ray Paquin, professor at Concordia University and a leading…

Cost-benefit analysis must drive sustainability investment, says Dr. Marc Orlitzky. He explains why CSR may not improve financial performance.

Rigorous cost-benefit analysis and research must underlie sustainability investment, says Dr. Marc Orlitzky (University of South Australia). In this Thought Leadership post, he discusses why CSR may not improve financial performance. Thought Leaders are leading academics and practitioners: world experts on sustainability issues.

Once upon a time I believed wholeheartedly that corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability would lead to economic pay-offs. I believed in a win-win scenario: firms that did good for society and nature would do better economically over time; and higher financial performance would in turn allow these organizations to do even more good. …

Donating in excess? Careful, the relationship between philanthropy and financial performance is not linear, but U-shaped.

Why Giving Too Much May Be Too Much to Ask

The relationship between corporate giving and financial performance is not always linear and positive. Your firm may be paying excessively into philanthropy — and the payoff may not be what you expected.

A 2008 study by Heli Wang, Jaepil Choi, and Jiatao Li of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology find that corporate philanthropy and financial performance are not linearly correlated, but rather exhibit an inverse U-shaped relationship.

The Philanthropy-Performance Relationship

Some researchers argue there is a positively-correlated relationship between corporate philanthropy and financial performance, while others refute that idea, claiming a negative relationship. …

What Sustainability Means for Businesses Now and in the Future

“The Basics” series from the Network for Business Sustainability provides essential knowledge about core business sustainability topics. This article in the series is written by Tima Bansal and Devika Agarwal.

In the last two years, a tidal wave of companies have committed to “sustainability.” They might set net zero carbon goals, diversify their workforce, or move into new, cleaner lines of business. And this is just the front edge of the wave. The interest in sustainability is likely to grow even more over the next decade, as businesses feel pressure from social movements and environmental challenges.

But corporate sustainability is…

Network for Business Sustainability

NBS is dedicated to making business more sustainable. We do this by sharing evidence-based guidance for business leaders thinking ahead.

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