L. Hunter Lovins at The University of Iowa

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As part of the University of Iowa’s Distinguished Lecture Series, and sponsored in part by the Office of Sustainability, L. Hunter Lovins visited campus Thursday, October 4th. As the sponsorship would imply, Ms. Lovins is perhaps most widely recognized as a sustainability advocate and is also the president and co-founder of Natural Capitalism Solutions. Her latest book, co-authored with Boyd Cohen, is titled The Way Out: Kick-starting Capitalism to Save Our Economic Ass.

The following quote from the book, originally from a 2009 article in the Harvard Business Review sums up the message that Ms. Lovins brought to campus rather nicely:

“Sustainability isn’t the burden on bottom lines that many executives believe it to be. In fact, becoming environmentally-friendly can lower your costs and increase revenues. That’s why sustainability should be a touchstone for all innovation. In the future, only companies that make sustainability a goal will achieve competitive advantage. That means rethinking business models as well as products, technologies, and process.”

Ms. Lovins stressed the idea that large corporations are increasingly driving sustainability (primarily for reasons that make fantastic business sense).

Wal-Mart, for whom L. Hunter Lovins has consulted in the past, through the implementation of their “comprehensive environmental and social scorecard” has tremendously impacted views of sustainability in the business community, especially among their estimated 100,000 suppliers.

Ms. Lovins also cited the United States Navy as increasingly demonstrating leadership in innovative sustainability actions, like moving to biofuel in order to power the world’s largest military fleet. She amusingly joked to the effect that if ten years ago someone had told her that Wal-Mart and the U.S. Navy would be driving sustainability on a massive scale, she would have offered to eat her hat. (Ms. Lovins is often seen wearing a hat.)

Here at the Tippie School of Management we are also playing a role in sustainability, whether it is in class exercises in the Strategic Innovation academy, or in students’ activities in our Net Impact chapter. And for those who think they need an institution to help them make change, in sustainability or elsewhere, L. Hunter Lovins has a quote from Gary Hirshberg: “Anyone who thinks they are too small to make a difference has never been in bed with a mosquito.”

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