My new MBA course: “Measuring and Reporting on Sustainability”

I am nearing the completion of a two-week intensive course that I am teaching to MBA students for the first time, called “Measuring and Reporting on Sustainability.” A year ago, I thought that our MBA program should have a course that teaches students about all the different ways that a product, factory, or organization can be certified as “sustainable.” I did the research on this topic and found lots of pieces of information (I ordered 50 new books for the library) but nothing that would qualify as a textbook. So I decided to run my course as a research seminar.

I have 19 MBA students working in teams of 2-3 to study a particular arena of reporting on sustainability. One group is studying the ISO 14001 standard on companies’ environmental management systems. Another group is looking at the ISO 14024 standard for eco-labelers (how a firm gets certified as an ecolabeler.) Another is studying ISO 14064 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions standards. One group is studying the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), which is about environmental, social and governance accountability. Another is looking at the AASHE STARS (Sustainability Tracking and Reporting System) that is specifically for colleges and universities. Another is looking at the WalMart Supplier Sustainability Assessment program. The last team is studying metrics for corporate health and wellness.

It is really cool to see what the MBA students are coming up with, and everyone is learning a lot from the other groups when they present the various components of the research report they are writing.

This is the kind of class I like the most–where the students are out beyond where textbooks even exist, and they’re researching absolutely state-of-the-art knowledge in their field and presenting it to each other. Even better, two of the groups are doing their work as consultants to a major design-and-engineering firm in Iowa (a large supplier to the aeronautics industry). They are evaluating the firm’s ESG reporting, benchmarking it against the GRI standard. The other is taking the Wellness Report created by the client’s wellness provider and extending it into a complete, comprehensive Health & Wellness Scorecard for the company. The client firm has only recently started to get organized around sustainability, so they are going to be very impressed with the students’ work.

My plan, seeing the lack of a textbook in this field, will be to write the book about “Measuring and Reporting on Sustainability” by next year. The recent report by GreenBiz.com, called “The State of Green Business 2011,” said that metrics for sustainability are the hot topic now. It’s time someone pulled it all together.

About Scott Herriott

Scott Herriott is Professor of Business Administration at Maharishi University of Management. He received his B.A. degree in mathematics from Dartmouth College and his Ph.D. in management science and engineering at Stanford University. He taught at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Iowa for six years before joining M.U.M. in 1990. His expertise is the application of quantitative methods to business strategy and planning. He teaches economics, finance, operations management, and strategic management. He is the author of a dozen scientific papers on economics, organization, and business strategy and of a 700-page textbook College Algebra Through Functions and Models. He is currently working on two more textbooks, Principles of Financial Analysis for undergraduate business students and Sustainable Technology: An Engineering-Economic Perspective. Dr. Herriott is active in the higher education community nationally. He has been a member of the Accreditation Review Council of the Higher Learning Commission, based in Chicago, and he has visited many universities in the USA as a member and chair of an accreditation evaluation team.
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