Unfortunately, this week’s conference at UCLA — The Financial Implications of Going Green – featured a few “corporate commercials,” i.e., shameless, disingenuous (and dull) promotion of an organization’s work in becoming a better steward of the environment, with little or no value to the audience. It upsets me to hear about a guy droning on about how the parent company of Fiji bottled water, an environmental obscenity if there ever were one, is installing solar panels on its headquarters roof.
Having said that, there were a few excellent presentations, including an interesting analysis of the circumstances under which certain companies clearly “do well by doing good.” In particular, a great number of case studies point to significant value accruing to companies that are sincere about sustainability initiatives, not only in terms of public image, but in terms of their ability to attract, engage and retain high-quality employees.
This is certainly a result that has intuitive appeal. No one wants to work in a setting that is oppressive, filling the world with damaging products that come at a terrific expense to the planet, and this is especially true of bright, thoughtful people. This phenomenon explains, for instance, the steady stream of requests I receive from young people willing to do unpaid internships; some folks simply want to get behind the large and growing movement to improve conditions on the planet.