The summer semester is underway and we are excited to have the opportunity to work with four innovative companies for our Leading Change Practicum.
All four of this semester’s projects are confidential in nature, and each has it’s own very unique set of challenges. First, one team is partnering with an accelerator to help launch a social enterprise. Next, one of our consulting teams is providing aid in launching a new technology. Furthermore, another team is providing insight on how to improve customer satisfaction and market reach for a local customer. Finally, one team is heading up a project involving waste to energy. Overall, each of these endeavors is on the cutting edge of their respected fields, and each project will ultimately create a significant impact in their markets.
One main focus for Cisco is “educating future problem solvers,” according to Carsten Johnson, who lead our interactive discussion at Cisco Germany. Throughout this session, Carsten discussed the five areas of focus with regards to sustainability and Cisco. These five areas included governance and ethics, supply chain, people, society, and the environment. Carsten mentioned some of the programs Cisco is currently implementing in each of these five areas, including the Cisco Networking Academy (NetAcad). This initiative has provided over 5.5 million students with classes ranging from coding to entrepreneurship. In addition, this academy focuses on helping provide education for underserved areas across the globe. Our time at Cisco helped all of us understand how this company is making a difference and adding to the positive change we all want to see in the world.
Days 6,7, and 8 were spent in the historic city of Heidelberg, Germany. From the cultural charm, historic visits, all the way to the amazing collection of food from across the globe, the weekend was one we will not soon forget.
“I learn everyday,” stated Daniel Schmid, Chief Sustainability Officer of SAP. Daniel led a discussion about the importance of connectivity, co-innovation, and learning. “By being more sustainable, you have better decision making, and a better company,” said Daniel. Daniel highlighted the many reports and initiatives SAP has in place, such as the Social Sabbatical program, in which employees can take time off work to put their specialized technology skills to good use for underserved communities all over the world. One of the most impressive facets of SAP’s sustainability initiatives is their Business Health Culture Index. This is a cause and effect analysis that quantifies employees ability to be innovative, creative, and have a worklife balance. SAP is leading the technology sector in sustainability reporting and initiatives, continuously pushing the limits to be one innovative company that is creating the positive they want to see in the world.
“Knowing cultural differences is vital to any successful international business relationship,” stated Bertrand Agostini, professor at ICN, who led us through a workshop on cross cultural communication on our third day in Nancy. This workshop included a great background on the differences in the government, culture, and history of the United States and France. With over 66 million people, and the world’s sixth largest economy, France is a major player in Europe, and particularly the European Union. This class helped us to comprehend how the French see situations, and why they think and act in certain ways. Bertrand highlighted the importance of knowing a people’s culture to fully understand how to approach a business relationship with them. Heading into the future, each one of us will be prepared to facilitate a business relationship with most French companies and enhance the opportunities for economic gain, environmental protection, and social enhancements on a global level.
Starting this day, we began our cross-cultural learning experience with a trip to ICN Business School in Nancy, France. After a brief overview of the campus, we had a insightful lesson with a resident professor which focused on susustainbility in the luxury industry. One great takeaway from this workshop was the new research that is pointing towards a fourth pillar of sustainability. This pillar, along with the social, environmental, and economic pillars, focuses on culture. This was enlightening, but seemed to be obvious as well. The application of this idea that culture can have the underlying rooots of all other pillars, particularly in the luxury industry, and still can be overlooked was well defined. Businesses need to understand that their culture is the root of their business, and without ethical values and sustainable ideals, that culture will be the biggest barrier to sustainable change that the company will face. After that, we took an amazing walking tour around beautiful Nancy, which is rich in history and culture. We are all having an amazing time!
“Prepare for landing” was the last thing I heard before we touched down in our first stop on our European tour. Landing and being in Paris, France today was an exciting opportunity that I have never had before. Our stay in Paris was shortlived, as we headed out on a train bound for Nancy, France and ICN Business School. It’s only the first day of our trip, but the enthusiasm, expectations, and eagerness are at all time high. Even through the jetlag, we are all ready to start experiencing the culture, people, and looking forwad to finding out how the French people are making the positive change they want to see in the world.
This new focus recognizes that a multi-national corporation understands the impact that their business has on the world through, not just economic, but also social and environmental. One change Ikea is making includes developing products, such as tabletop hydroponic gardens, that promote sustainable lifestyles. Ikea is creating a new direction for the company to ensure they are being the positive change they want to see in the world.
In January 2007, when Duquesne was recruiting students for our first MBA Sustainability cohort, the cover of what was then BusinessWeek magazine invited readers to “Imagine a world in which eco-friendly and socially responsible practices actually help a company’s bottom line.”
Less than a decade later, McKinsey describes sustainability as “profits with purpose” and reports that “companies pursue sustainability because it has a material financial impact.”
- Companies with high ESG ratings outperform market in the medium and long-term and have lower cost of debt and equity.
- Companies in Carbon Disclosure and Carbon Performance Leadership Indices have superior stock market returns.
- Efficient use of resources is an indicator of overall superior financial performance.
- Socially responsible investment accounted for more than 11% of assets under management in the United States ($3.74 trillion) in 2013.
As MBA students with a focus in sustainability, we are preparing to strengthen the business case for the positive change we want to see in the world!
For one of our consulting projects, one of our teams tackled the blight of eyesores in Pittsburgh. In cooperation with Phipps Conservatory, this team identified potential locations for urban green space that are currently underutilized. This city has a great opportunity to improve its health, economic, and attractiveness by incorporating more green space into it’s city limits. With multiple areas of Pittsburgh undertaking great strides in their development, this is the perfect time for this project. The members of this team “utilized design thinking” to complete their project plans, while also “beginning to understand the complex environment in which a community project of this size lives,” and “how to overcome the barriers” associated with this type of project. The team wants to send a special thanks to Phipps Conservatory for this fantastic opportunity.
Without giving away too much information, one of our MBA Sustainability consulting teams was working with Eat’ N Park Hospitality Group as they expand their restaurant empire and onsite catering business. This team worked on the cutting edge of sustainability initiatives within the restaurant industry and had an amazing time doing it.
One of our MBA Sustainability consulting teams just completed working with the Green Building Alliance to research and develop better financing options for “Green and Commercial Renovations.” They explored successful and emerging trends in sustainable renovations for older buildings, and how to keep the “first cost” down when these renovations occur. This team has described their experience as “challenging but rewarding,” and enjoyed the opportunity to work with the GBA.