Saving the World at Business School
A conversation with Andy Hoffman

The notions of ‘environmental sustainability’ and ‘big business’ sometimes seem as incompatible as oil and water. Andrew Hoffman, however, is certain that this synthesis is possible. But for it to happen, he argues, we need to seriously reconsider the way we currently conduct public policy and ...

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About Andy Hoffman:
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Andrew J. Hoffman is the Holcim (US) Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business. Andrew’s current research focuses on corporate strategies to address climate change, the interconnections between for-profit and non-profit entities, and the network s...

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Some Additional Resources:
Flourishing: A Frank Conversation about Sustainability

by Andrew J. Hoffman
This book takes the form of a conversation between Andrew and his former teacher, John R. Ehrenfeld, during which they discuss how to create a sustainable world.

Competitive Environmental Strategy: A Guide To The Changing Business Landscape

by Andrew J. Hoffman
In this book Andrew examines the effects of environmentalism on corporate management, explaining how and why environmental forces are driving change and how business managers can think about environmental issues in a strategic way.

From Heresy to Dogma: An Institutional History of Corporate Environmentalism

by Andrew J. Hoffman
This book offers an account of how the environmental movement has led to changes in the perceptions and practices of large-scale corporations, focusing specifically on the chemical and petroleum industries. This book was awarded the 2001 Rachel Carson Prize from the Society for Social Studies of Science.

Builder's Apprentice

by Andrew J. Hoffman
In this memoir Andrew describes his decision to turn down acceptances to graduate school at Harvard and Berkeley to become a carpenter on the island of Nantucket, later becoming a builder of high-end custom homes. This book was the winner of the 2011 Connecticut Book Award.


Clarity vs. Popularity (Commentary Excerpt)

A friend of mine has long argued that there is an inverse relationship between the popularity of a word and its meaning. The trendier a word has become, he says, the fuzzier it is, until eventually it’s used everywhere and means nothing.

‘Sustainability’ seems a perfect example for his theory. Once a word primarily associated with dour environmentalists, it’s hard to think of someone these days who does not avidly chatter away about its merits. Politicians of all stripes routinely vie to outdo one another to demonstrate their sustainability credentials. Corporations now have Chief Sustainability Officers. We are all sustainability advocates now. But what are we actually talking about?

Not much, it seems.

Into this yawning semantic void steps Andy Hoffman. A business school professor who regularly rubs shoulders with major players throughout America’s corporate landscape, Hoffman might seem an odd choice to be the driving force for a fundamental re-interpretation of the green lexicon.

But a closer examination shows that he has spent the majority of his career searching for constructive and practical ways to develop mutually beneficial common ground between the forces of capitalism and environmentalism. He is, after all, the Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan.

There’s that word again.

But Hoffman, to his credit, keeps pushing our understanding of what it actually means.

However vague it might be, he told me, our widespread invocation of ‘sustainability’ is a good thing. Once rejected from a position at a top-tier business school for being “too focused on the environment”, Hoffman welcomes the fact that sustainability has finally “gone mainstream”. But that’s only the first step.

“Now it’s time to discover ‘sustainability 2.0’: where do we have to go next? There’s been change to a certain point. But the problems continue to get worse and even more radical shifts are called for.”

A radical shift is exactly what you might call Hoffman’s latest work, Flourishing, written in collaboration with his old mentor John Ehrenfeld. The book is a dialogue between the two experts that begins with an analysis of the issues at play and concludes with a final chapter entitled, Reasons to be Hopeful...

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