MIT Sloan → Jason Jay: The Sustainability—Innovation Nexus


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Jason Jay is a Senior Lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management and Director of the Sustainability Initiative at MIT Sloan.

He teaches courses on leadership, strategy, and innovation for sustainable business. Jason engages students and alumni in hands-on projects with leading companies and organizations. These efforts help build a community of innovators for sustainability that includes MIT students and alumni, faculty and researchers, with partners in business, government, NGOs, and hybrid organizations.

Jason’s research focuses on how people navigate the tensions inherent in the quest for sustainability, as they simultaneously pursue their own self-interest and the flourishing of human and other life. This work includes deep case studies of cross-sectoral collaboration and hybrid organizations that combine social and business goals. These case studies have been published in the Academy of Management Journal and California Management Review. He also contributes to the MIT Sloan Management Review, Stanford Social Innovation Review, and Greenbiz on the topic of sustainability-oriented innovation (SOI). A key finding of his research is that social innovation occurs through authentic conversations that hold the tension between divergent values and perspectives. With Gabriel Grant, he is the author of Breaking Through Gridlock: The Power of Conversation in a Polarized World.

In this episode, the following topics are discussed:

  • S-Lab — MBA students learn about sustainable business practice
  • Research and teaching initiative —
  • MIT Sloan now teaches sustainability and has up to 95% engagement from business students
  • Challenges from the past decade as a satiability advocate
  • Some people dismiss environmental and social challenges
  • Are there tradeoffs to align with sustainability?
  • SOI — sustainability orientated innovation
  • Breaking through the stigma of the word ’sustainability’
  • Motivation is driving toward and innovation, or ‘regenerative’ and ‘flourishing’.
  • Circular economy
  • Supply chain optimization
  • Operational efficiency
  • Soil vitality
  • Position vs opposition, as related to values
  • People don’t like waste and want things to work better
  • Do laws of climate change restrict freedom?
  • FEMA and climate disasters
  • Revenue neutral carbon tax
  • The connection between innovation and sustainability — or SOI (Sustainability Orientation Innovation) framework at MIT Sloan
  • Innovation is a startup context — and incorporating sustainability measures
  • Lean Impact Measurement
  • KPI’s — John Doer — and sustainability as a design constraint
  • Nike and SOI — when analyzing GHG and carbon footprint — coming from gasses that inflated air bladders — they were using sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) — without sacrificing athletic performance — led to new shoe designs along with structural integrity of sustaining nitrogen
  • Constraints can lead to innovation
  • Stakeholder concept is important because it contrasts with shareholder
  • Stakeholder capitalism
  • Environmental and social NGOs
  • How to prioritize who a stakeholder is and how to engage — Ceres
  • Crafting a sustainability strategy and prioritize issues
  • EDF, WRI, and 1% For the Planet
  • The big challenge is the increased interests in sustainability, ESG, but a lot is being built on a shaky foundation


Jason Jay

MIT Sloan


Book: Breaking Through Gridlock

Sustainability Orientation Innovation

Strategies for Sustainable Business

#ceres #nike @MITSloanSusty


Philip is host of Corporate Sustainability; the podcast that explores companies and people who inspire innovation, improvement, and sustainable business practices through purpose-driven missions and initiatives. Philip is a longtime marketer, who consults companies on how to use stories and narrative to help build their brands. He says sustainability stories are one of the most powerful ways companies can manage their reputations.

Connect with Philip at




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