The Week in Sustainable Business News: 8 March 2020

Companies and Industries

GE Says It’s Going Green, But Overseas It’s Still Pushing Coal: In the USA, General Electric positions itself as a clean technology company working on wind turbines and other clean energy equipment. In Vietname, it’s selling equipment for new coal power plants, along with 18 other coal plants in 17 other countries. The company is beginning to attract criticism from banks and financial institutions less interested in financing carbon-intensive projects.

Shell Has a Plan to Profit from Climate Change: Oil companies like Shell and Exxon have known for decades that burning fossil fuels would cause climate change. So far they’ve fought against policy to reduce fossil fuel use while attempting to market themselves as part of solving climate change, such as BP’s ill-fated Beyond Petroleum branding campaign of the 2000s. As momentum builds for policy to reduce the role of fossil fuels in society, oil companies are now seeking ways to shift strategies away from oil to clean technology while remaining profitable. It’s one of the most dramatic strategic shifts in modern corporate history, and Shell hopes to convince governments to help pay it to make the transition.

Ethical Forests investigates how brands are performing on 2020 commitments to end deforestation: In 2014 a coalition of companies, governments, NGOs, and other organizations committed to halving the global deforestation rate by 2020. Instead, the deforestation rate grew 43%. The only country where forest loss slowed was Indonesia where the government instituted a ban on new forest concessions. The failure of the coalition mirrors a broader failure on the part of companies to achieve sustainability commitments. Recently the number of companies even making commitments has slowed. Only 8% of existing commitments cover all of a company’s supply chain and operations. More than half of companies buying and selling forest-risk commodities have made no commitments to end deforestation.

Australia Banks to Face Climate Stress Tests, Regulator Says: The Australian bank regulator is increasing pressure on banks to become more resilient to a host of risks, one of which is “climate change financial risks,” a term left undefined in the regulator’s statement (pdf).

Business, Politics, Policy

How a Trump Insider Embeds Climate Denial in Scientific Research: The New York Times reports an employee of the Interior Department in charge of overseeing land managed by the US government inserted scientifically debunked claims about atmospheric carbon dioxide benefits into government reports. The employee has worked at Interior since the 1980s. The Trump administration promoted the employee to a senior position in charge of reviewing Interior’s climate policies. During their time at Interior, the employee also collaborated on reports with the Cato Institute and the Heartland Institute, both think tanks that have sought to undermine findings from climate science.

Cashmere and climate change threaten nomadic life: Cashmere wool is produced from the hair of cashmere goats. Growing global cashmere demand has led Mongolians to increase ownership of cashmere goats that are grazed on Mongolia’s grasslands. The goats are replacing sheep, also popular herd animals in the country. While sheep graze by biting off the top of grass, leaving roots intact, cashmere goats rip the entire plant out of the ground, killing the grass. Substituting cashmere goats for sheep is increasing overgrazing and grassland degradation while also threatening traditional nomadic practices.

Global rescue plan for nature ‘overlooks genetic diversity’: Researchers criticized a new 10-year strategy to protect biodiversity for focusing too much on people and not enough on wildlife, especially protecting the genetic diversity of all species rather than focusing on those currently viewed as beneficial to people.

Colorado bill would require utilities to shift to ‘renewable natural gas’: A proposed law in the US state of Colorado would require energy utility companies to source some of their natural gas from landfills, sewage plants, and livestock manure.


Teaching sustainability: how MBAs are combining mainstream with green-stream: MBA students report increasing interest in learning about and working for governments and nongovernmental organizations. A recent survey of prospective business school students found 70% named “ethical leadership” as important to business teaching and research.

MBA students and employers demand ‘profitable solutions for people and planet’: MBA student respondents to a survey about business school social responsibility and impact made the following demands:

  • Sustainability and social impact training should be mandatory,
  • Reduce carbon dioxide emissions and food waste, exchange ideas on good practice, and prioritize, gender parity,
  • Stop investing in fossil fuels,
  • Stop treating sustainability as a secondary concern,
  • Stop accepting funds from unethical companies and people,
  • Stop flying students abroad for courses
  • Stop emphasizing profit maximization

As a sign that business schools might implement some reforms, accredication and other bodies related to business schools–the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), the European Foundation for Management Development, and the Association of MBAs–have incorporated some trends in guidelines.

While calls for change exist, they are not universally agreed on among business school students, faculty, and staff, many of whom remain focused on “traditional” research and learning. Global demand for management education continues increasing despite declines in MBA applications in the United States.