132. Alex Edmans – Sustainability Expert – Growing the Pie and Shrinking the Gap Between Theory and Practice

Alex Edmans, is a professor of finance at the London Business school.  Alex has a PhD from MIT as a Fulbright Scholar, and was previously a tenured professor at Wharton and an investment banker at Morgan Stanley. Alex has spoken at the World Economic Forum in Davos, testified in the UK Parliament, and given the TED talk “What to Trust in a Post-Truth World” and the TEDx talk “The Social Responsibility of Business” with a combined 2.4 million views. Alex’s book, “Grow the Pie: How Great Companies Deliver Both Purpose and Profit”, was featured in the Financial Times list of Business Books of the Year for 2020, and he is a co-author of “Principles of Corporate Finance” (with Brealey, Myers, and Allen) for the 14th edition to be published in April 2022. Poets and Quants named him Professor of the Year for 2021.

Our conversation starts with Alex’s first foray into finance, which was as a practitioner and why he saw a path of academia as enabling him to have broader reach, and ultimately create more impact.  We speak in detail about his areas of focus, and Alex is honest about the danger of academic research being cherry-picked to lend credence to different objectives.

We use some relatable analogies to explain the benefits of engagement v. divestment, and explore the meaning of what “responsible business practice” really means and the trade-offs that are involved.

Alex is noted for bringing the latest in cutting edge sustainability research into industry in a digestible and commercial way, and for this reason I believe he is responsible for “shrinking the gap” between theory and practice. This is a broad-reaching and stimulating discussion.

Series 2 of the 2022 Fiftyfaces Podcast is brought to you with the kind support of the William Blair Active Share Podcast.