Strategists have always talked about sustainable competitive advantage, but we face a growing realization that firms are vulnerable to predictable changes in their physical and social environment. Sustainable business goes beyond maximizing today’s profits, and looks toward maximizing profits over the life of the firm (which hopefully is infinite!).
While some sustainable practices are explicitly environmental, many are not. Sustainable businesses are also concerned with the training and availability of their future workforces, the sustainability of their customer base, and the robustness of their sourcing arrangements or inputs. Thus sustainable businesses invest in education, work to improve the health of their customers, and examine the business practices of their partners.
The UTA College of Business offers a wide variety of education for our students around sustainability. In our Environmental Economics course students explore the short-term and long-term cost-benefit analysis of sustainability. Economics Department Chair Roger Meiners, Ph.D., is a Senior Fellow at the Property and Environment Research Center in Bozeman, Montana, and an Energy Policy Fellow at the George W. Bush Institute at SMU. His two books, “The False Promise of Green Energy” (published July 2012) and “Silent Spring at 50: The False Crises of Rachel Carson” (no relation) describe the calculations that firms should use as they think about long-term profitability. “In economics, we think everything is about sustainability–enhancing the efficient use of resources to produce better quality of life,” said Meiners.
College of Business courses in real estate discuss green buildings, LEED certifications, and their expected returns in investment and adaptive reuse and property redevelopment. Courses in accounting and finance address socially responsible investing and internal reporting.
Associate Professor of Management Jeff McGee, Ph.D., is currently leading a sustainability-focused graduate business student study abroad program to Iberia in Summer 2014. Students meet with executives in leading companies in Spain and Portugal and learn how sustainability is changing the competitive landscape and reshaping the opportunities and threats that companies face.
Sustainable products have the potential to launch new companies. A team of four UT Arlington College of Business students enrolled in our Social Entrepreneurship class competed at TCU’s annual Values and Ventures Business Plan Competition in April 2014, with a sustainable product: outdoor pavers made from 100-percent recyclable materials. And our own campus invests in sustainable practices.
How does your firm ensure its own sustainability? I welcome your comments below!
The Network for Business Sustainability
Sustainable Business: Where Our Moral Compass Meets the Bottom Line
By Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever
The U.S. Small Business Administration Guide to Sustainable Business Practices
Best practices in sustainability: Ford, Starbucks and more
By Joe Confino, The UK Guardian
UT Arlington Campus Sustainability