Rebecca Henderson believes business enterprise is one of the most powerful forces on the planet when it comes to effecting positive change – but that it must move quickly if we are to successfully address the problems the world faces. One of the most articulate and insightful academic scholars on the influential role business can play in ensuring a more sustainable future, her research explores the strategic and organizational forces that lead to sustainable business.

The John and Natty McArthur University Professor at Harvard University, she has a joint appointment at the Harvard Business School (HBS) in the General Management and Strategy units and is the Co-Chair of the Business and Environment Initiative. Professor Henderson is also a research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research. For many years, her work focused on the difficulties large, successful organizations experience in attempting to respond to large-scale technological shifts. In this context she worked with some of the world’s leading pharmaceutical, IT, materials and CPG firms to build a rich understanding of the ways in which effective leadership can enable strategic renewal. Her most recent research explores the ways in which firms can successfully respond to the next great challenge of building a sustainable economy. She is particularly interested in the role of organizational purpose in supporting accelerated innovation and exceptional productivity.

Professor Henderson teaches two MBA level courses “Innovation in Business, Energy and Environment” and “Reimagining Capitalism,” and also teaches in HBS’s Executive Education program. She is an advisor to some of the world’s leading companies in the sustainability space and a board member of Amgen and IDEXX Laboratories. Her work has been published in a range of scholarly journals including Administrative Science Quarterly, The Quarterly Journal of Economic and the Strategic Management Journal. She speaks frequently to companies and in public forums around the world. Her forthcoming book, to be published by Oxford University Press, centers on how large complex organizations are undertaking changes in their business as they move to become more sustainable. Her most recent publication is “Accelerating Energy Innovation: Insights from Multiple Sectors (University of Chicago Press, 2011).

Previously, she was the Eastman Kodak Professor of Management at the Sloan School of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where she ran the strategy group and taught courses in strategy, technology, strategy and sustainability. She received an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from MIT and a doctorate in business economics from Harvard.


University of Chicago Press (May 2011)

Harvard Business School Faculty Page

Harvard University Center for the Environment