Darden Launches Concentration in Innovation for Sustainability


The Darden School of Business believes that business leaders of the future must fully understand the importance of sustainability and learn to make decisions from an environmental perspective. For this reason, Darden has launched a new academic concentration to deepen MBA students’ knowledge in the area of Innovation for Sustainability.

Larson 8.31.10 sustainability

“The growing ‘sustainability’ imperative ― to systematically incorporate health issues, ecological impacts, equity concerns, community effects, and short and longer-term financial responsibility to stockholders and stakeholders ― presents strong incentives for companies and students to understand this changing competitive landscape and explore its inherent opportunities,” says Darden Professor Andrea Larson, who will teach the required course “Sustainable Innovation and Entrepreneurship.”  “Whether through solar technology innovation, green building design, alternative financing mechanisms, life cycle supply chain management, or collaborative stakeholder processes that produce unprecedented outcomes for community health, sustainability-related innovation is now having a global impact on industries and how companies are managed.”

Students will choose from among several elective courses, including “Business and Sustainability,” “Systems Design and Business Dynamics” and “Creative Capitalism.” They must also complete an experiential component, whether a business project with a sustainability-focused company, or a Global Business Experience, such as a sustainability-focused trip to visit companies and study at universities in Brazil, Israel or Sweden. Coursework will be supplemented by multi-disciplinary, student-faculty gatherings to synthesize knowledge.

Brownlee 8.31.10 SustainabilityAccording to Darden Professor Richard Brownlee, “This concentration will raise students’ awareness and expand their knowledge about the global and systemic impacts on natural systems and human prosperity from important societal trends such as population growth, expanding industrialization, and rising energy and material consumption patterns. We expect this concentration will allow students to add an important sustainability lens to their decision-making toolkit.” Other goals of the concentration are to:

  • Inform students of established and newly emerging regional and global institutions and policy instruments that influence business operations and strategy, such as the UN Framework on Climate Change (Kyoto and Copenhagen), the Montreal Protocol (ozone layer protection) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (ecosystem protection), to name a few.
  • Enable students to design and understand fundamentals of executing sustainability strategies by exposing them to the decision-making approaches and tools, including systems analysis, industrial ecology, cradle-to-cradle design, The Natural Step framework, green supply chain management, reverse logistics, green chemistry, green engineering principles, eco-efficiency tactics and sustainable innovation strategies.
  • Teach students how to design and implement sustainability strategies and operating practices across functional domains and business units to increase revenues through innovative products and services, to lower costs through efficiencies and cost avoidance strategies, and to create and enhance sustainable brands.

“By adding an informed sustainability perspective to their managerial and decision-making capabilities, Darden students will become better leaders as they deliver on the School’s mission to improve society for the world of practical affairs,” says Darden’s Dean Bob Bruner.

According to Erika Herz, Darden’s Manager of Sustainability Programs and Managing Director of the Alliance for Research on Corporate Sustainability (ARCS), “Darden students are increasingly interested in careers that allow them to use the influence of business to tackle society’s greatest challenges.  Whether they enter a traditional finance or marketing role, or start a mission-oriented entrepreneurial venture, the sustainability concentration provides an excellent perspective to maximize their impact.”

Natalie Schafer, Darden Second Year student and president of the student club, Net Impact, agrees and adds, “Darden has so many strong faculty, resources and initiatives in the sustainability space; their alignment within the sustainability concentration will even further equip Darden students with the tools they need to create change.”

Founded in 1954, the Darden School of Business is a professional school that improves society by developing principled leaders in the world of practical affairs.

For more information, contact communication@darden.virginia.edu.

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