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Pro-business degrowth


Three ‘degrowth’ strategies can help firms pursue new opportunities while benefitting the planet, says new Harvard Business Review article co-authored by Dr Thomas Roulet of Cambridge Judge Business School.

Glass office buildings among green trees.

There are three “degrowth”-oriented strategies that companies can pursue to open new opportunities while benefitting the environment, says a new Harvard Business Review article co-authored by Dr Thomas Roulet, University Senior Lecturer in Organisation Theory & Information Systems at Cambridge Judge Business School.

Dr Thomas Roulet.
Dr Thomas Roulet

The article published 14 February identifies strategies followed by firms at the forefront of the degrowth movement, but which can also apply to larger incumbent firms.

  • Companies can apply degrowth to product design to create products with a longer lifespan or which are locally produced. An example is social enterprise Fairphone, which makes phones that can be more easily repaired in the interest of longevity.
  • Companies can reposition themselves in the value chain by delegating some tasks to stakeholders. Toymaker LEGO has launched marketplaces for trading used products or creating new designs.
  • Firms can create degrowth-focused standards for others in the industry to follow, the way apparel company Patagonia provides free repairs for its products and those of other manufacturers.

The article in Harvard Business Review – entitled “Why ‘de-growth’ shouldn’t scare businesses” – is co-authored by Dr Thomas Roulet, who is also Deputy Director of the MBA Programme at Cambridge Judge Business School, and by Dr Joel Bothello, Assistant Professor in Management at the John Molson School of Business at Concordia University in Montreal.

“Firms should think innovatively about this consumer-driven degrowth as an opportunity, instead of resisting or dismissing the demands of this small but growing movement,” the article concludes. “Businesses that successfully do so will emerge more resilient and adaptable – instead of necessarily selling more, they will sell better, and grow in a way that satisfies consumers while respecting the environment.”

The ideas in the article reflect research by Dr Thomas Roulet that won him a place on the shortlist of the Financial Times and McKinsey 2019 Bracken Bower Prize awarded to the best business book proposal by an author aged under 35.