CHRISTOPHER BAKER ’09
Co-founder, Green Business Club
* Social Enterprise
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Earth Day 2009 is here, and if you’re a business student or a practitioner, you might want to pay attention. Long considered the province of treehuggers and other warm-hearted-but-corporately-challenged individuals, Earth Day in the 21st century has taken on a new importance. And unlike previous corporate excursions in the environmental realm during the ’70s and early ’80s, this time around the movement is unlikely to be subject to the whim of oil prices. Environmental progress touches a wide array of policy issues dear to the hearts of both liberal and conservative politicians: energy security, job creation, climate change and human health. In other words, sustainability and environmental issues are here to stay. Last week the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a finding that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions endanger “the health and welfare of current and future generations.” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson cited the report as “the first formal recognition by the U.S. government of the threats posed by climate change.” The finding has far-reaching significance for U.S. business — whether through EPA regulation or congressional legislation, change is coming soon. While some of the world’s leading organizations have made meaningful progress on their environmental impact, there remains a general lack of expertise on the way that business intersects with the environment. A focus on environmental issues appears likely to follow the same adoption path that the Internet experienced in the mid-to-late ’90s: from novelty, to practice by a few early adopters, to acknowledged competitive advantage, to business-as-usual. Today, some of the world’s largest and best-run companies, including DuPont, GE, Sony, 3M and Coca-Cola, have...