In recent years, many companies have recognized the impact of their activities on climate change and other environmental issues. Often, it is believed that a technical solution will solve the problem, allowing companies to avoid negative consequences in the future. But what’s in the rearview mirror is closer than it looks.
To help managers think more holistically about the social and environmental impacts of their business and take action, faculty at Cornell SC Johnson College of Business recently launched an online certificate in Development of sustainable enterprises through eCornell.
Professors Mark Milstein, Glen Dowell and Chris Marquis have partnered to develop the certificate and put practical, timely training in the hands of managers, entrepreneurs and operations professionals.
“People often think of sustainability in environmental terms, but sustainability, by definition, rests on three pillars: social, environmental and economic,” shares Milstein. “You’re not addressing sustainability if you’re not iterating on those three elements all the time.”
The program includes five two-week courses that educate and empower participants to implement new business models for their organizations across all three pillars. Additionally, to stay up-to-date with today’s consumers, companies must take responsibility for their impact on the environment – and communities and individuals – within their supply chains.
“It’s not so much that a product creates a big footprint,” says Dowell. “That’s where the footprint exists and in what dimensions. Take the example of clothing. Many people are unaware [its] massive environmental and social impact.
Terrible accidents like the 2013 collapse of Rana Plaza – a garment factory in Bangladesh that failed to follow management and safety policies, claiming the lives of 1,134 people and injuring more than 2,500 workers – reveal the human danger and risk of not ensuring that consumer goods are ethically sourced.
“Such accidents leave people’s consciousness; they kind of think it’s been fixed, but they’re also not aware of the massive amounts of water, chemicals, and oil needed just to get you clothes,” Dowell continues. “There are all kinds of pieces throughout the cycle of production, distribution and disposal for something that we take for granted, and then that’s exacerbated by things like fast fashion, where we buy clothes that don’t are not intended to be used for long periods of time. .”
The Sustainable Business Certificate includes exercises and tools to guide business leaders in creating a sustainability implementation plan that they can apply directly to their organization. By leveraging the latest best practices and emerging technologies, these decisions can result in new market opportunities and increased revenue.
The program also includes a course on stakeholder management to help participants gain buy-in from other leaders and managers and adopt necessary changes.
“You can’t use the past as a trendline for the present,” advises Milstein. “You have to think about new ways of doing things. You have to experiment.
Chelsea Nuesi and Molly Israel are eCornell contributors.