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The Business School Brings Sustainability HomeThe Business School Brings Sustainability Home
Committed to sustainability, the School of Business is adding sustainability modules to required courses this fall.

Committed to sustainability, the School of Business is adding sustainability modules to required courses in each of its four core disciplinary areas this fall.

Finance and international business professor Hormoz Movassaghi is introducing a “Managing Corporate Social Responsibility Globally” component to the International Business Operations course.

Management professor Aimee Dars Ellis created two modules for her department. One illustrates how the control process, a management function, helps direct a firm’s efforts toward sustainability. The other explores the role of motivating employees to embrace sustainability in the workplace.

These modules are one of four sustainability initiatives the school will pursue this year.

  • The school is now a signatory to the Principles for Responsible Management Education, which foster responsible management education, research and thought leadership globally.
  • Management professor Linda Gasser and graduate student Sara Rawson ’11 created a database of business articles, exercises and case studies focused on sustainability, which will assist faculty in incorporating sustainability topics in the classroom.
  • Three students are starting an Ithaca College student chapter of Net Impact, a nonprofit dedicated to helping individuals use the power of business to create a more sustainable world.

Starting with the name of its building – the Dorothy D. and Roy H. Park Center for Business and Sustainable Enterprise – the School immerses everyone in sustainability. The Park Center, opened in 2008, earned LEED Platinum certification and is a popular site for those interested in high-performance sustainably designed buildings.

The School’s mission statement declares: “Our degree programs align theory with practice within the global and ethical decision-making context necessary to foster sustainable enterprises.”
But just what is “sustainability?”

The Environmental Protection Agency says, “The traditional definition of sustainability calls for policies and strategies that meet society’s present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

Movassaghi explains the topic in terms of business school teachings:

“Sustainability considerations are becoming increasingly strategic in nature, and top managers recognize the importance of its integration into their day-to-day operations, driven by a variety of marketplace imperatives and personal commitment among some companies’ top management.”

Movassaghi’s International Business Operations course will

  • Review leading market business sustainability indexes to see how they identify specific areas of corporate practices and measure companies' performance in sustainability.
  • Review environmental, corporate social responsibility and workplace standards around the globe.
  • Examine sustainability strategies of the top-ranked global corporations in the consumer, capital goods and service sectors. The fall case studies will cover Johnson & Johnson, Asea Brown Boveri-ABB and Vodafone, respectively representing the three sectors.

When Ellis teaches general core classes, such as Organizational Behavior and Management, she uses sustainability-related examples to illustrate the concepts discussed in class. For discussion of organizational culture and values, she includes companies like Timberland and Patagonia (manufacturers of outdoor clothing and products) that, she says, “have a strong mission related to sustainability.”

She also introduces corporate leaders who are strong proponents of sustainability. One of her favorites is Tom Szaky of TerraCycle, a maker of consumer products from pre- and post-consumer materials.
Szaky started his company as a freshman at Princeton in 2001. TerraCycle creates national recycling systems for previously non-recyclable or hard-to-recycle waste and converts the collected waste into items such as tote bags, garden products and school backpacks available at retailers like Walmart and Whole Foods Market.

“Since he has such charisma, the students connect to him,” Ellis says.

Three other faculty helped create the modules: Alka Bramhandkar, also in finance and international business; Scott Erickson, in marketing and law; and Warren Schlesinger in accounting. These modules fill in the gap between the introductory World of Business class for freshmen and the capstone Strategic Management class for seniors, both of which include sustainability.

Ellis, Movassaghi and Alyssa Weinberg ’12 attended last year’s Net Impact conference in Detroit, hosted by the University of Michigan School of Business.

“It was incredibly inspiring – both hearing the great stories from corporate leaders who are infusing their firms with interesting and meaningful initiatives, as well as seeing all the student representatives who are committed to carrying that energy into their future jobs,” said Ellis.

She and Movassaghi helped Weinberg, Lauren Goldberg ’13 and Katie Oertel ’13 establish the IC Net Impact (www.netimpact.org) chapter.

Oertel, a business management major with an environmental studies minor, says they want the chapter to include students from all majors, not just business. Weinberg is a business administration major, Goldberg in environmental studies. Using Net Impact’s online database of tools and professionals, they will invite speakers to talk about green business strategies.

“I hope to also get the organization involved in some community service, outreach projects and possible tours of other eco-friendly business facilities,” said Oertel.

The School also presents a Sustainability Speaker series. In the past year, Mark Buckley, vice president of environmental affairs for Staples, discussed “Staples’ Sustainability Story,” and Peter G. Brown, a professor in the McGill University School of Environment, spoke on “Will Sustainability Elude Us? An Ethical Critique.”

PRME – the Principles for Responsible Management Education – has attracted 390 academic institutions around the world as participants. The School will report its progress annually and benchmark best practices. PRME (www.unprme.org) includes six principles:

  • Purpose: To develop students as leaders of sustainable values for business and society.
  • Values: To incorporate the values of global social responsibility into all school classes and activities.
  • Method: To enable effective learning experiences for responsible leadership.
  • Research: To help corporations create sustainable social, environmental and economic value.
  • Partnership: To understand business managers’ challenges in meeting social and environmental responsibilities and to explore effective approaches to meet these challenges.
  • Dialogue: To support discussion among educators, students, business, government, consumers, media and other stakeholders on global social responsibility and sustainability.

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