A Prescription for Change:
Embedding Sustainability in Business Education and Research
Dorothy Paun (College of Forest Resources)
Over the past decade, the concept of “sustainability” has evolved from the obscure to common usage. As sustainability awareness diffused, sustainability became a mission, and for the most innovative corporations, a practice. Additionally, increasing stakeholder interest in better corporate stewardship and transparency has resulted in firms issuing sustainability/environmental/CSR reports. These reports offer valuable social and environmental performance metrics yet are underutilized by the public.
My goals were to: 1) create a teaching model/methods for interactively learning corporate “triple bottom-line” performance using corporate sustainability reports, 2) mentor students in real world investigation of integrated environmental, social responsibility, and financial performance, and 3) provide a public service aimed at growing sustainability report use, understanding, and value. During 2005 I created a teaching model, methods framework, and associated sustainability assignment. These were employed in a large lecture undergraduate class where students were mentored in analyzing/interpreting data collected from corporate annual financial and sustainability reports (three case studies).
Student feedback said that the assignment was exciting, meaningful, and beneficial (e.g., learned skills highly sought by employers). Due to the success of the undergraduate sustianblty assignment, and because empirical correlations among environmental, social, and financial performance are largely unknown in any context (e.g., corporate, government, academia), I broadened and deepened the teaching model/methods for use in a research seminar. In 2007 six students were mentored in triple bottom line performance analysis (10 firms). Student feedback was positive, so in 2008 I further refined the teaching model/methods and formed a data collection collaboration with Professor Emil Morhardt from the Roberts Environmental Center at Claremont College. A team of eight students analyzed 78 firms from 17 countries in 12 industries. Study findings were disseminated (i.e., teaching effects) through a team authored non-peer reviewed publication and a manuscript currently under review at the European Journal of International Management.