Past eventMembers

Corporations and Environmental Sustainability: Profit vs Planet?

13 April 2018 - 5:00pm to 6:00pm

Chatham House | 10 St James's Square | London | SW1Y 4LE London


Yossi Sheffi, Elisha Gray II Professor of Engineering Systems, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Author, Balancing Green: When to Embrace Sustainability in a Business (And When Not To)
Chair: Felix Preston, Senior Research Fellow and Deputy Research Director, Energy, Environment and Resources, Chatham House



Furthering environmental sustainability can have direct benefits for businesses, such as decreasing dependence on high-cost natural resources, reducing packaging costs and benefiting from governmental tax breaks and incentive programmes aimed at promoting green practices. The Business and Sustainable Development Commission argues that applying the Sustainable Development Goals across four major global systems - food and agriculture, cities, energy and materials, and health and wellbeing - could unlock US$12 trillion in business savings and revenues by 2030.

However, given that implementing green measures will in many cases involve an initial capital outlay and higher ongoing costs, how can businesses - traditionally focussed on strict financial measures like revenue, profit and growth - justify pursuing environmental goals if they do not lead to an associated improvement in financial results?

Yossi Sheffi will argue that, for corporations, sustainability is not a simple case of ‘profits vs planet’ but is instead a more subtle issue of (some) people versus (other) people - those looking for jobs and inexpensive goods against those seeking a pristine environment. He will examine the challenges and implications for corporations balancing financial goals with sustainability objectives and set out when – and to what extent - businesses should seek to ‘go green’ and when they should pursue alternative aims.

This event will be followed by a reception open to all attendees.