A CSR/Sustainability Primer (Of sorts…)

I’m working on Prezi for a talk on csr/sustainability that I’m giving to a class of MBA students next week.   The class is a business ethics course at the Olin Business School of Washington University in St. Louis.  (My school.)  I’ve been given a window of 30-45 minutes to give an overview of my take on CSR & sustainability in the context of my professional experience and relevant education.  I’m having trouble condensing this down to the most salient points of what it is, why it’s important and how they can get involved, while leaving time for questions, in the given time.   I’ve listed a few of the things I’m planning to share below and would love to have your feedback.

Side note: I was looking for a copy of the McKinsey Greenhouse Gas (GHG) cost abatement curve (Image below) and ran across an interesting report from the UN’s Environment Program (UNEP) “Kick The Habit: A UN guide to climate neutrality,” which I thought was worth sharing here.

McKinsey’s GHG Cost Abatement Curve

The cost abatement curve shows the low hanging GHG fruit on the left with all the options in green having positive financial returns.  If your business is not looking at pursuing these options, you may be giving your competition a boost, as it’s a safe bet that they already have taken advantage of these options, or are actively pursuing them.  The options in red imply costs rather than savings, but this scenario assumes an unchanged regulatory environment.  Should a carbon tax or cap-and-trade regulation be enacted, most of these options would look more attractive while some of them would join the savings options on the left.

Source: McKinsey Climate Change Special Initiative, 2007

Global Warming Potential

A quick overview of global warming potential (GWP)…

GWP Definition from Wikipedia:

Global-warming potential (GWP) is a relative measure of how much heat a greenhouse gas traps in the atmosphere. It compares the amount of heat trapped by a certain mass of the gas in question to the amount of heat trapped by a similar mass of carbon dioxide. A GWP is calculated over a specific time interval, commonly 20, 100 or 500 years. GWP is expressed as a factor of carbon dioxide (whose GWP is standardized to 1). For example, the 20 year GWP of methane is 72, which means if the same weights of methane and carbon dioxide were introduced into the atmosphere, that methane will trap 72 times more heat than the carbon dioxide over the next 20 years.

Then I ‘ll reel them back in with the reminder that, in spite of it’s GWP being just 1, CO2 is where the bulk of the additional heat in the atmosphere comes from.

Source: UNEP

Carbon Footprint

A quick reminder of our outsize impact.

Sustainable Development

The Brundtland Commission which coined what has become the most often-quoted definition of sustainable development as development that “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” (Source: Wikipedia)

Wrap Up

As I stated at the top, I’ve got 30-45 minutes to tie in as much of the science to the business impacts they create as I can.  With that in mind, I’m planning to show a couple of short (1-3 minute) explaining core topics like the greenhouse effect and then will discuss some of the low hanging fruit in the McKinsey curve at top and how they might get things started at their companies.  I’m not planning to dive into change leadership, even though I believe that skill is paramount in this field, as this is an ethics class.  Please share any thoughts you have on pieces I may have left out, or any other suggestions you may have.  I’m looking forward to the opportunity and want to ensure that I have a positive impact.

Here’s a link to the work-in-progress presentation.

Thank you,


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