Measuring the Value of Environmental Activists

One of the vital skills business schools teach is how to measure value. The exercise is usually easier when the company being evaluated is a for-profit business. Analyzing value in a not-for-profit organization is much murkier.

At Harvard Business School, students work through a case study to attempt to determine the value of Greenpeace and the World Wide Fund for Nature. In an interview with HBS Working Knowledge, professor Ramon Casadesus-Masanell discusses the many steps students take to reach a conclusion. It helps to start with this question: Is the organization achieving its goals? Says the professor:

"Greenpeace's goal is 'to ensure the ability of the Earth to nurture life in all its diversity' and WWF's is 'to stop the degradation of the planet's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature.' The challenge for a business student is how to put a quantifiable measure on whether these organizations are successful in reaching their goals. Clearly, financial statements do not suffice."
In their study of this case, students learn about the earth's 2,000-year-old 'vicious cycle', concepts such as willingness-to-pay, and even employ the 'prisoner's dilemma' problem to understand the choice governments make between lax and stringent environmental policies.

So, can you measure the value of environmental activists? Yes. But you'll have to read the article to find out how.