12 Jul 2018

In the Market for Environmental Change

As chair of the Environmental Defense Fund, Carl Ferenbach (MBA 1972) promotes the financial benefits of responsible corporate investing and sustainable practices


Carl Ferenbach (MBA 1972) is cofounder and retired managing director of the Boston-based private equity firm Berkshire Partners and chair of the Environmental Defense Fund. In this video interview, he talks about his growing interest in sustainability and environmental concerns.

“We grew up on land in Central New Jersey before it was populated in the '1940s and '50s. Once I went away to school, that sort of got left behind. When Judy and I bought a farm in Vermont, that rekindled both of our interest and desire to just be on that landscape.

“We discovered a sign in a garage, an old building we were going to tear down. And it said High Meadows Farms. High Meadows today is several locations, about 1,000 acres. It's organized as a corporation. Our aim is not to make a profit. Our aim is to run a place that people really like to be, like to work, and like to do the things they do.

“We provide maple syrup to local school breakfast programs. Lots of kids in rural places, and certainly in rural Vermont, are coming to school without having had an adequate start to the day. It's been a wonderful gift to be able to produce it. We produce about 500 gallons of maple syrup a year.

“We'd been on the farm for about 10 years, and we were asking a lot of questions about what was going on in the environment. The Environmental Defense Fund has worked successfully for decades now with the corporate sector. They have had a number of successes, the principal one being the 1990 Clean Air Amendments to the Clean Air Act.

“The Environmental Defense Fund derives its programmatic focus from markets. Markets, in their belief, can create much faster, more complete change than mandates from government agencies and others, not that those aren't necessary. The reigning buzzword used to be socially responsible investing or social responsibility in all corporate affairs. That now lives under the rubric ESG-- Environment, Society, and Governance.

“What we've seen in the financial community is, on the investment side, a growing interest in a question which is, if a company is operating with sound and progressive—if you will—ESG principles, does it produce better financial outcomes? And while there is not yet today a concrete answer to that question, we are seeing adoption increased significantly, particularly with new generations of employees who care more about those questions than previous generations have.”

(Published June 2018)

Featured Alumni

Featured Alumni

Class of MBA 1972, Section B

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