Maurizio Zollo, Scientific Director of the Leonardo Centre and Professor of Strategy & Sustainability, gave his inaugural lecture at Imperial College Business School on 22 January.
Standing before a busy auditorium, Maurizio's lecture: "How can business evolve from cause to remedy of social maladies?" explored the important role businesses should play in addressing pressing global issues, such as wealth inequality and environmental damages, including climate change.
To make his case, he used shocking statistics, such as the wealth of the 16 richest people on the planet is equal to that of the 3.5 billion poorest, 1.7 billion people have no access to clean water and plastic is expected to outweigh fish in our oceans by 2050.
However, the lecture took a more optimistic turn as Maurizio explained what action is already being taken – and what more can be done – to solve these problems.
"We are in an important historical moment: for the first time humanity has come together in framing the problems and coming up with clear targets," he said.
"All the governments in the world have committed to achieving those targets. We should not underestimate this – it is the first time and it's hugely important. It wouldn't take a magic wand if you could find a way to convince companies to take action."
He concluded the lecture with his plans for the Leonardo Centre, a new research centre at Imperial College Business School which is committed to exploring and experimenting with new ways of doing business in order to regenerate economies, communities and natural environments around the world.
"There is a fundamental need for cross-disciplinary competence that fortunately here, at Imperial College, we have in abundance," he said. "I have found that of all the academic institutions I have worked in, this has by far the strongest culture of collaboration and sharing, and that to me is a really strong and powerful prerequisite to crack these problems."
In his research, Maurizio explores how business organisations learn to grow and adapt to environmental turbulence, and how managers can guide these evolutionary processes through the combined use of strategic growth initiatives and organisational change, innovation and learning processes.
In addition to his role at Imperial College Business School, he is a visiting professor at the Sloan School of Management and at Bocconi University, and has published over 50 academic papers, the findings from which have been featured in the Harvard Business Review, The Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times.