On Black Friday of 2011, Patagonia released a now-famous New York Times advertisement with a picture of a jacket and a simple plea: “Don’t buy this jacket.” The response, ironically, was a surge in sales. Some analysts deemed the whole thing a cheap trick. But the underlying message was clear.
Consumers prefer brands imbued with purpose. They prefer companies that are working to create a better future. Corporate sustainability is shifting — has perhaps already shifted — from a sidelined department into a core strategic opportunity, which means that lines of inquiry are also evolving: Where companies once debated whether or not to pursue sustainability, these questions are being replaced with debate over how best to pursue sustainability initiatives. What does success look like? What areas should be targeted, internally and externally? Who is responsible for outcomes and who must be brought on-board?
“Today’s sustainability challenges reach around the world and are deeply interconnected,” said Stuart DeCew, Program Director at the Yale Center for Business and the Environment. “This means that solutions, to have meaningful impact, must bridge long-standing corporate divisions and academic disciplines.”
In response to this challenge, the Yale School of Management is running a Corporate Sustainability Accelerator this November 2-4 to help companies vitalize and refine their sustainability plans. The accelerator follows two distinct programs:
- First, participants take part in a series of meticulously curated talks on issues of sustainability. These explore an array of issues, from what metrics are most illuminating to how one might best influence peers and reduce institutional resistance.
- Second, and most distinctly, the accelerator offers one-on-one discussion with some of the world’s leading sustainability thinkers to help participants revise their sustainability plans.