SERIOUS MONDAY: BUSINESS FACULTIES TEAM UP AGAINST THE ENVIRONMENT

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A new Environmental website created by the faculty at the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, Harvard Business School, and the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, as well as the students at Dartmouth, was released this week. This new website allows surfers to see a balanced view of the environmental performance of over 20,000 industrial facilities across the US.

The site, MapEcos.org, also includes government data on toxic pollution and data the site developers are collecting from the facilities themselves. The site uses advanced mapping tools to reveal the industrial pattern of pollution across the US. It was shaped by three faculty members and was built by a group of entrepreneurial students.

“We wanted to move beyond finger pointing,” said Harvard Business School Assistant Professor Michael Toffel. “We believe MapEcos is the first website that presents information about company’s environmental performance while providing their managers with an opportunity to publicize their environmental practices and awards. By giving managers a voice we can portray a more accurate picture of what actions are underway and what problems remain.”

MapEcos provides users with Satellite imagery and maps and color code industrial facilities where representatives of the facilities have provided information regarding their environmental management activities. Users can search for facilities by name, location, corporate owner, and industry and emission level. The site also provides pictures of the facilities themselves including smoke stacks and run off streams and ponds.

“MapEcos lets us create a kind of natural experiment, where we make information more accessible and then see how people respond,” said Michael Lenox, an Associate Professor at the Fuqua School and Director of Duke University’s Corporate Sustainability Iniative. “We plan to examine which facilities, industries and neighborhoods attract the most attention from MapEcos users. This information may help predict which facilities should develop robust mechanisms to engage their shareholders.”  Professor Toffel explained another line of research the team hopes to pursue, “By observing how thousands of facilities respond to our invitation to contribute information about their environmental practices on MapEcos, we will better understand why some types of facilities choose to remain more transparent than others.”

Andrew King, an Associate Professor at the Tuck School of Business said, “The three of us have been conducting research on business and the environment for years, and we wanted to find a way to do high quality research and make a difference and the same time.”  King noted the team named the site MapEcos “to emphasize our attempt to integrate information that is relevant both to ecology and economics. In this age of polarization, we wanted to take a stand for telling both sides of the story. The map will keep changing as more companies add information about their environmental improvement efforts.”

The group of students, many of them Dartmouth College Students: Evan Tice, Chris Hughes, Loren Sands-Ramshaw, and Jason reeves teamed with the three professors to develop this site. Tice said, “We built upon familiar Google maps technology and other mapping software to give the public access to both detailed information about the environmental performance of individual facilities as well as more general information about the broad sweep of industrial activity across the US.”  Hughes added, “We also wanted to allow managers to provide information about their environmental protection activities, and this necessitated a system for accessing and displaying data from a survey system at the Harvard Business School.”

“We hope industrial pollution is only the beginning,” commented Lenox. “Most environmental problems come from habitat change, land use change, and distributed sources of pollution. Mapping will be even more powerful in studying and improving those issues.”

Dawn

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