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Fred Krupp, '78: Corporations Can Be Environmental Allies

Fred Krupp

In 1984, Fred Krupp became president of Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), thanks to an ambitious plan he spelled out for the organization and to his unwillingness to listen when the search firm told him he was too young at age 30.

Through the years, Krupp, '78, has worked to find market-based solutions to environmental woes. EDF worked with McDonald's to end its use of Styrofoam clamshells and switch to paper-based packaging for its sandwiches. EDF worked with FedEx to launch the first "street-ready" hybrid delivery trucks, and with fishermen to advance the idea of catch shares to prevent overfishing.

With environmental problems, he says, "sometimes we can battle it out in front of Congress or state legislatures, and maybe that gets to a good answer. But where it's possible to reach an agreement with the stakeholders that gets us to the ambitious goals we need and that the companies can accept, or even thrive under, that can help us accelerate progress."

Many companies are receptive to such changes, he says, because they know they can capture more profit share by producing products people want to use. And in the age of instant information-sharing, heads of companies are more inclined to be good neighbors and good citizens, he says: "They know they have to focus on their real impact as opposed to a clever PR guy spinning the story."

As an undergraduate, Krupp read Professor Joseph Sax's Defending the Environment (Knopf, 1971). "I knew then that I wanted to go to Michigan Law School," he says. He took three classes from Sax, who also was Krupp's adviser for his independent study.

One of the lessons he took away from those classes was that the damage being done to the environment is rapid, and that solutions need to be quick as well.

"We need to make sure our life-support systems stay intact, and we need to figure out how to use regulations that align market forces so they harness entrepreneurial energy to do just that. We need to have a force as powerful as capitalism to sustain life on Earth.

"I'm hopeful about solving these problems and reaching our ambitious goals, but we have to do it now. We have no time to waste."—KV

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Professor Joseph Sax and his Intellectual Home at Michigan Law
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