Harvard Thinks Green: Making Money While Making a Difference

Professor Rebecca Henderson from Harvard Business School gives a very interesting presentation at the recent Harvard Thinks Green forum, called “Making Money While Making a Difference: Is It Really That Easy?”.

Focused on the ability of the corporate model to be a (profitable) change agent, the key question that she attempts to answer is:

Whether business can be a major lever for change, and if so, how?

A question worth answering, and a clip worth watching.

“This is a tough question. If we think about the relationship between making money for shareholders and creating social value, there’s an influential school of thought that thinks that market capitalism is structural evil, that the focus on the bottom line, that the focus on money at all costs, on personal gain, a system built on nothing but personal self-interest is one of the most important instruments that is destroying the planet. On the other hand, we have a group of people who think there is no conflict between making money and saving the world. Indeed, they would argue that business has been one of the most powerful — if not the most powerful — instruments for social progress over the last hundred years. That it is capitalism that has created the buildings, the food, the cars, the gadgets, the lives that we lead right now and has brought unprecedented prosperity and freedom across the world. And they would point to what happened in Russia and to what is happening in China right now to say, ‘look, look what business can do.’

So this is our question: can business make a difference in the great problem that we face? My own view is… nuanced.”

— Rebecca Henderson, Harvard Business School

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