July 27th, 2017


Professor of Environmental Science, Stanford

Managing Partner, Ecosystem Investment Partners

Senior Writer, GreenBiz.com


Can trees and businesses get along? News headlines and politicians these days often say that protecting the environment hurts the economy. But companies are increasingly realizing that helping fight climate change can also be good business.

“You can outcompete through environmental performance,” says Adam Davis, managing partner of Ecosystem Investment Partners, a firm that helps people make money by cleaning up the environment. He recalls lobbying with environmental groups for stricter environmental standards, which created competitive advantage for the businesses that adhered to them. “Clear regulations that provide limits that tell you what you’re allowed to do and what you’re not allowed to do are good for business.”

“There’s much more consumer scrutiny of what companies are doing these days,” adds Barbara Grady, senior writer at GreenBiz, a news site where she writes about companies changing their ways to reduce the environmental impacts of their operations. ”They realize there is a reputational risk if they do not take care of the environment.”

Gretchen Daily, Professor of Environmental Science at Stanford University, notes that technology is making it easier and easier for both businesses and consumers to track that environmental care. We can, for example, “trace our breakfast where we got the tea or the coffee that we’re drinking, where the cereals came from, how they were packaged up and sent to us and really began to illuminate our own impacts and the ways in which we can influence all those producers out there.”

While acknowledging the complexity of labelling standard and certifications -- not to mention corporate greenwashing -- Daily believes that the nature of the climate crisis is leading to real changes in corporate attitudes. “There are many legitimate leaders out there deeply concerned at a personal level,” she says, “and also recognizing their responsibility as leaders in this corporate enterprise that really governs the planet and trying to change it.”