The issue of corporate social responsibility and sustainable business practices is here to stay, according to strategy and entrepreneurship professor Olga Hawn.
Dr. Hawn has a background in strategy and her research focuses on strategy in sustainable enterprise and social responsibility. I talked with Dr. Hawn about her research objectives, and the takeaway is clear: sustainable enterprise has the potential to become a mainstream business strategy.
Sustainable enterprise is a way of doing business that makes profits through means that reduce harm to society and the environment. Unlike greenwashing – a marketing technique that falsely depicts a company as environmentally-friendly – sustainable enterprise is about creating forward-thinking business strategies to make a positive impact on the triple bottom line (people, planet, profit) and minimize damage to the world around us.
Sustainable business models are gaining support in the business world and are valued for their long term cost efficiency and potential. In the Spring 2015 issue of UNC Business magazine, alum Kal Trinkner (BSBA ’08, MAC ’09), a senior in EY’s climate change and sustainability services practice, noted that more companies are tackling tougher sustainability issues. “Managing triple bottom line performance is really where forward-thinking companies are heading,” he says.
Dr. Hawn offers a diverse perspective on how businesses can benefit from a strategy centered on sustainable enterprise and corporate social responsibility. Through her research at UNC Kenan-Flagler, she hopes to gain more insights into issues such as determining when sustainable enterprise is profitable for businesses and what conditions help sustainable enterprise achieve better validation in financial markets than less sustainable alternatives.
Education plays a huge role in shaping the mindsets of future generations of business professionals. Dr. Hawn aims to equip tomorrow’s leaders with the knowledge and tools to convince firms that sustainable business practices are both viable and valuable as a corporate strategy, and to help them implement goals that involve sustainable growth and risk minimization. Her ultimate goal is to make sustainable strategies more appealing to a wider audience and develop best practices for businesses to adopt strategies benefiting the triple bottom line.
By Abigail Barhnill (BSBA ’16)