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Corporation 2020: Transforming Business for Tomorrow’s World

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Friday September 28, 2012, 1:00 p.m. — 3:00 p.m.
Kroon Hall, Burke Auditorium

Featuring Pavan Sukhdev (2011 McCluskey Fellow at FES, Former Head of UNEP’s Green Economy Initiative),

Yvon Chouinard (Founder of Patagonia),

and Vincent Stanley (Writer and editor for Patagonia) 

The Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies will host a public event to launch the new book Corporation 2020: Transforming Business for Tomorrow’s World, by Pavan Sukhdev. The theme of the event revolves around the question of: “Can private profits and social purpose meet?” The discussion will be between Yvon Chouinard, Vincent Stanley, and Pavan Sukhdev (Author of Corporation 2020).

Many have questioned whether corporations can fulfill a social purpose while still earning a profit --- from the early American corporations chartered to serve a public purpose, to Henry Ford’s desire to “spread the benefits of the industrial system to the greatest possible number”, to modern “Corporate Social Responsibility” (CSR) efforts. However, the operating environment for business has increasingly moved away from encouraging companies to pursue social purposes in their business activities. “General incorporation statutes”, limited liability laws, and changes in the post-war period have lead to a situation in which corporations now mostly act with impunity --- largely free of requirements to serve a public purpose or even report the damages they cause to society and the environment.

Despite these legal developments, some companies have managed to stand above the crowd. The outdoor clothing and gear company, Patagonia, is perhaps the foremost example. The company has repeatedly ignored conventional business advice, in an effort to be a responsible company. They have, for example, transformed their supply chain for cotton, taken efforts to ensure that their climbing gear does not deface rock walls, and implemented a marketplace for customers to re-sell used Patagonia products.

In Corporation 2020, Sukhdev, a leading expert on the green economy, argues that in order for corporations and society alike to survive and thrive, we need to rethink the way the business world works. This requires not just action by corporations, but also the strength of governments directed toward transforming regulations and creating incentives for corporations to change and adapt.

Corporation 2020 presents the view that corporations can be saved from themselves and turned into an engine of both profit and societal well-being. With examples of companies already successfully implementing his ideas, like sportswear maker Puma and software company Infosys, he offers a sweeping vision of a better corporate model that allows business to coexist with the environment long into the future.

This event is part of the GE Colloquium in Sustainability Leadership, a speaker series focused on sustainability careers in the corporate sector, which is sponsored by the GE Foundation.

Image courtesy of Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung/flickr