It seems like only yesterday I wrote a blog accepting the Presidency of ARCS as we proudly entered our second decade as an organization. Today I write to close that chapter in my relationship with ARCS and to turn the next page. The intervening five years have been anything but brief. A global pandemic, moving our entire lives onto Zoom, bitterly polarized politics, four years of backsliding on climate goals, assaults on democracy, Putin’s war on Ukraine—all have taken their toll on our physical and mental well-being.
Reflecting on the Past Five Years
ARCS has not been immune from these changes, but we have gamely muddled through. In February 2020, after great conferences at MIT in 2018 and UNC in 2019, I had lunch with Anne Jacqueminet in Milan to talk about the upcoming ARCS Conference at Bocconi University, only our second time hosting the Annual Conference outside of the U.S. (Frank Wijen’s conference in Rotterdam in 2017 set a high bar.) We were excited to have a great set of papers and keynote ideas. After my seminar, I took the train to Venice for Carnevale, and, suddenly, COVID descended. Carnevale was cut short, and the classic “plague doctor” masks of Carnevale were replaced by modern surgical masks. Knowing we could not host a conference in person, we created the ARCS Online Seminar as a way to share the papers that had been accepted for the Bocconi Conference. It was our first foray into the online space, and it drew a large and engaged audience, thankful for connection during a difficult time.
The ARCS Online Seminar was such a success that we turned it into an ongoing part of our community. Caroline Flammer graciously stepped up to organize and moderate the Seminar, and it has proven to be a great way to welcome a new set of scholars from around the world to our community.
Anne Jacqueminet gamely agreed to stay on as Conference Host for 2021, assuming the pandemic would relent and allow us to resume “normal” conference activity. By March, 2021, though, it was clear the pandemic was far from under control, and we decided to host our first online conference. Thanks to the outstanding work of Anne and ARCS Managing Director Brooke Sweeney, we hosted a very successful online conference in June 2021.
Anne Jacqueminet gamely agreed to stay on as Conference Host for 2022, assuming the pandemic would relent and allow us to resume “normal” conference activity. By March, 2022, we had a great set of papers selected and a sense of deja vu. Anne was by now a seasoned hand at organizing ARCS Conferences, and she and her team have smoothly pulled together a compelling program with social events that promise to make this the most memorable ARCS event yet. I very much look forward to welcoming you all to Milan in June!
The Evolving Role of ARCS
ARCS has matured in many ways over the last five years. We added four new Institutional Members: UNC-Chapel Hill, London Business School, Rutgers University, and New York University. We learned how to operate in the online environment, with an Online Conference and an Online Seminar series. The Seminar is reaching a new generation of scholars from around the world, demonstrating the positive benefits of online engagement. We overhauled our website to give it a fresh look and improved functionality. We became a 501c3 non-profit organization, no longer dependent upon particular universities to serve as financial hosts.
When Mike Lenox first broached the idea of ARCS in 2009, the goal was to bring rigor to thinking about the nascent field of corporate sustainability. One of our key functions as an organization has been helping the field mature, and as part of that goal, serving as an incubator for emerging scholars. We provide a nurturing space for young researchers to meet top scholars in the field, through the Ivey/ARCS Sustainability Academy, the Ph.D. workshop and the Annual Conference. Part of the magic of ARCS is its “grouchy” culture, which trains a critical eye on research results that seem too good to be true but always from a deep commitment to making a difference. It has been a joy to help shepherd along the careers of many of the emerging leading lights in this field.
Welcoming a New President
As I step down from the Presidency, it is clear that a new generation of corporate sustainability scholars is thriving. I could not be happier to pass the torch of leadership to our new President, Caroline Flammer. Caroline has been an active part of ARCS for much of her career. She won our second Emerging Sustainability Scholar Award, in 2015, and this year she was promoted to Full Professor at Columbia University. She is well known for her rigorous work at the intersection of sustainability and financial markets, in a series of influential papers in top journals in Strategy, Management, and Finance. She serves as the Chair of the Academic Advisory Committee of the United Nations’ Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), the largest network of responsible investors to date. She also serves as Associate Editor for both Management Science and the Strategic Management Journal. Despite these many commitments, Caroline has always generously contributed her time to the ARCS community, as a key part of our Ph.D. Committee and as the leader of our Online Seminar series. Last but not least, Professor Flammer brings a welcome Swiss sense of time management to events.
Please join me in welcoming incoming ARCS President Caroline Flammer!