[syndicated from my blog at blogs.ft.com/mba-blog]
Everyone who works at the Environmental Defense Fund wants to change the meaning of the term “business as usual”.
The EDF was founded with its original intent to do just that, through whatever means necessary, to force those who were harming the natural environment to stop and pay society for their ecological “sins.”
You might even be familiar with its old unofficial slogan, “sue the bastards”. Despite this history, the EDF may currently be the leading proponent of market-based solutions and for working with corporations to find “the ways that work”. How did this happen?
This morning I found myself yet again in the conference room, this time with Fred Krupp, the president of EDF for the past 25 years. With these questions in my mind, I was priveleged to hear at first hand from the man who was instrumental in that change.
Which is where I get to the vision thing. Fred has had his eye on the ball pretty much since he was a kid in New Jersey. He has been focused on the environment his entire career, starting as a lawyer, activist and then as the director of EDF.
Something that seems to me to be more important than keeping his eye on the ball, however, has been his ability to know where he wants to hit that ball. He has harnessed the deep desires of the environmental movement for change and focused on the outcomes that everybody wants.
What he ceased caring about in the late 1980s was the methods used to get there. Inspired by the wild-eyed entrepreneurial spirit that resides in the American business world, he has helped transform what it means to do business in America. Together with a crack-team of economists, he helped create and enact the idea of cap-and-trade for pollutants, which has been a run-away success for acid rain pollution and is likely to do the same for carbon dioxide, eventually.
This type of vision took courage. Courage to stand up to much of the environmental movement he had been a part of for his entire life, as well as having the tenacity to fight through the barriers that entrenched corporate interests had put up against change. Who knows how many countless hours he spent laying out and selling this idea to stakeholders at all levels of our economy?
These are a few of the lessons I am learning this summer. This is true leadership.