John R. Ehrenfeld Author of Evaluating Organization Development

John R. Ehrenfeld

Senior Research Faculty
MIT (Retired)

John returned to his alma mater, MIT, after a long career focused on the environment. There, he created and ran the Technology, Business, and Environment program, one of the first programs to study how business handles environmental affairs. He also became involved in sustainability research. After retiring in 2000, he directed the International Society for Industrial Ecology until 2009. He continues to think, write, and teach about flourishing (more) and sustainability (less).


John R. Ehrenfeld began his career as a chemical engineer, but morphed into an environmental researcher in the 60’s. In 1967, he founded Walden Research Corporations, an early environmental research firm. In 1977, he moved to the public sector as Chairman of the New England River Basin Commission. After the election of 1980, he was an environmental policy consultant, until he returned to his alma mater, MIT. At  MIT, he directed research into corporate environmental management. His many doctoral students are now on the faculties of business schools, continuing to teach and study topics related to corporate environmental management and sustainability. After retiring in 2000, he helped found and then became the Executive Director of the International Society for Industrial Ecology, a new field based on the analogy between industrial and ecological webs. He continues to be engaged in thinking, writing, and teaching about flourishing. His recent work digs deeply into the concept of flourishing as the measure of human existence. He is the author of The Right Way to Flourish: Reconnecting with the Real World (2019) and Sustainability by Design: A Subversive Strategy for Transforming our Consumer Culture (2008), and coauthored Flourishing: A Frank Conversation about Sustainability (2013) with Andrew Hoffman. In June 2009, the International Society for Industrial Ecology awarded him its Society Prize. In October, 1999, the World Resources Institute honored him with its first lifetime achievement award. He received the Founders Award for Distinguished Service from the Academy of Management’s Organization and Natural Environment Division in August, 2000. He is author or co-author of over 200 papers, and other publications.

Areas of Research / Professional Expertise

    Environmental Studies, Sustainability,  Cultural Critique

Personal Interests

    Fly Fishing, Bridge, Grandchildren


Featured Title
 Featured Title - The Right Way to Flourish: Ehrenfeld - 1st Edition book cover


She Ji

Flourishing: designing a brave new world

Published: Mar 19, 2019 by She Ji
Authors: J. R. Ehrenfeld
Subjects: Anthropology - Soc Sci, Environment and Sustainability

Sustainability has failed as a primary normative vision. Flourishing, the realization of the human potential, is a more appropriate normative vision to drive change. The ills of today can be traced to the dominance of the objectifying, controlling left hemisphere over the connected, caring right. Designs that induce “presencing” activate the right hemisphere, which is associated with flourishing.


Dr John Ehrenfeld, Writer and Researcher - Sustainability by Design and Flourish

Published: Dec 03, 2019

Keynote speech by Dr John Ehrenfeld at the Annual Conference for the EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Industrial Sustainability on September 10-11, 2013 at Magdalene College, Cambridge - Conference theme 'Integrating Industrial Sustainability'.

Ākāśa Interview with Dr John Ehrenfeld

Published: Jul 07, 2014

A sneak preview of our interview with Dr John Ehrenfeld, the author of "Flourishing" and "Flourishing Enterprise". In this clip, John explores the difference between "flourishing" and "sustainability". John reflects on how new projects like Ākāśa Innovation give him hope for the future.

Arena Civil Dialogues: Environment/Climate: techno optimists meet techno pessimi

Published: Nov 18, 2019

Dialogue about the potential of technological solutions to climate change