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Course Showcase - Sustainability and Organizational Management

Posted: September 14th, 2023

Understanding the link between strategic organizational decisions and their lasting impacts on the sustainability of natural and physical resources around us is a critical skill for business leaders today.

The University of Wisconsin MBA Consortium's program includes an elective course option to immerse and inform on this important topic. MBA 774: Sustainability and Organizational Management introduces students to the interrelationship between business and the natural environment.

Offered during the summer term, the course examines the impact of the environment on business and the potential consequences of daily and long-term business decisions on the environment.

Students enjoy the opportunity to reflect on how they can impact the decision-making at their organization regardless of position. They also conduct major, hands-on outside projects.

Completely overhauled in the spring of 2022 to contemporize the learning material, the course now includes modules on sustainability strategies versus tactics; meshing sustainable strategies with math; biomimicry; carbon neutrality and net zero; investment for sustainability; closed-loop systems; and drawdown and regeneration.

"The most important message is that if we do not shift to a circular economy from a linear economy (taker-make-dispose), it might just be 'game over' for the planet," says course instructor Drew Stapleton.

He enjoys introducing new concepts, such as biomimicry, and watching students connect with their firms or industry. He works to inspire those connections through discussion and assessments.

Stapleton says the professional applications are wide-ranging. "They need to think beyond traditional sustainability concerns and think about regeneration, carbon re-capture, creating and preserving value in a new paradigm (circular)," he says.

"It really gets them to think of how they can make a difference at work and home. I have heard countless reflections on the changes made not only at work but also in the decisions they make at home for their family based on the learning in this class."

Sustainability and environmental issues are critical in all industries. The UW MBA Consortium's course planners use this opportunity to create a well-rounded educational experience and help students realize that finance, budgeting, leadership and forecasting are not the only aspects that make a successful business professional.

Morgan Lewis, a former student of Stapleton's, said her course experience taught her that, eventually, all areas that impact business would need to change. "There is a continuous movement to better advancement and new technology," Lewis says. "If we want to be leaders of tomorrow, we need to be ready to learn and adapt to this changing environment."

Lewis, who currently works for an environmental company, had many direct professional takeaways from the course content because her business is based on sustainability. "This course made me evaluate some of our processes and determine if they are the best course of action for the future or trendy at the moment," Lewis said.

She used the course material as a personal challenge to find methods that prove her business is not just an environmental company but a sustainable environmental company. "It is important to understand other areas that impact business as well, and sustainability is one of those topics," Lewis says.

At the end of this course, students will have the skills to take current and emerging economic and environmental knowledge to their organization's strategy, innovate sustainable strategies to help their organization compete locally and globally, and recommend ways organizations can improve their environmental sustainability efforts.

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