Cornell Professor Builds on His Base

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Stuart Hart, founder of “base of the pyramid” economics, talks about terrorism, poverty, and the next big corporations. As one of the founding fathers of the “base of the pyramid” economic theory, Stuart Hart plays a crucial role in reshaping the way companies view the 4 billion people who live in poverty. The Cornell B-school professor is the founder and chair of the school’s Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise and an authority on the implications of sustainable development and environmentalism for business strategy. His 2005 book Capitalism at the Crossroads is required reading for many students taking classes on the base of the pyramid theory, along with C.K. Prahalad’s 2004 book The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid: Eradicating Poverty Through Profits.

Since Hart’s book was published, the subjects he touched upon in the first edition of the book?sustainability, climate change, and environmentalism, to name a few?have become some of the hottest topics of the day. With so many new developments in this area, Hart recently put out a second edition of the book, which hit store shelves in late July. In this new edition he expands upon the connection between terrorism and poverty, climate change, and new developments in sustainable enterprise. With its streamlined subtitle, an introduction by former Vice-President Al Gore, and a number of additional case studies, Hart is hoping that his book will have new relevance for business school students and more general readers.

BusinessWeek reporter Alison Damast recently spoke to Hart about the new book. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation:

Why did you ask Al Gore to write the introduction to the second edition of your book?

Al Gore’s star has really risen since the first edition came out in 2005. If you look at it going back maybe five years, he looks like a failed politician. That is clearly no longer the case, and he never really was. His track record around environmental matters and climate changes goes back 20 to 30 years.

But over the last two-and-a-half years, with the film An Inconvenient Truth and these issues exploding on the scene, he’s become prophetic on these topics. His level of visibility and his impact has risen dramatically over that period of time. The combination of his championing [combating] climate change, along with his new company, Generation Investment Management, made him seem like the perfect person to write the introduction. I’ve also tried to incorporate more content in this second edition around climate change.

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Source: Business Week (link opens in a new window)