Darden School Helps Share Best Practices in Teaching Sustainability at Fourth Annual Sustainability Research Conference

30 May 2012

The Alliance for Research on Corporate Sustainability (ARCS), based at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, held a sustainability teaching summit to allow professors and corporate stakeholders to exchange teaching and business best practices during the recent ARCS Research Conference. The summit focused on new and effective ways to teach MBAs and executives about sustainability.

On Wednesday, 16 May, conference participants attended the session“From Classrooms to Boardrooms: Embedding Sustainability Research in Curriculum and Corporate Strategy” to share and discuss the latest available pedagogical approaches, tools and materials in sustainability education. ARCS is led by Darden Professor Michael Lenox and is a consortium of 14 of the country’s leading universities that produce sustainability scholarship. Its mission is to advance rigorous academic research on corporate sustainability issues to further understanding and empower decision-makers confronted with sustainability challenges and opportunities. This year, the conference was held at the Center for Business and the Environment at Yale University.

“The conference has always been research-focused and centered on academicians, as well as on developing junior faculty” says Lenox. “We thought it would be nice to bring in more stakeholders — particularly those from the corporate realm — so that we can apply the research that we do to corporate practices and needs.”

According to Erika Herz, Darden’s manager of sustainability programs and managing director of ARCS, the idea behind the summit was to distribute best practices among professors. As a result, scholars learned what corporate employers want, and how to deliver the students who understand what corporations need. Additionally, business leaders had the opportunity to hear about the body of sustainability research available to inform their decision making.

Lenox moderated the panel “What Are We Delivering Now?” which sparked conversations about course design and business values conveyed in top MBA programs.

Other panels included “What Do Employers Want?” which focused on the requirements for the training of business graduates. The panelists noted that a sustainability-savvy leader is one who successfully aligns multiple business functions (such as product development and supply chain) to achieve sustainability aims and find competitive advantage. Such leaders take a system-wide view of their company and industry, creatively and diplomatically influencing key individuals and groups across that system to effect change — often without any staff of their own.

A discussion on “Bringing Experience Into the Classroom” showcased proven case studies and simulations to help the scholars develop their teaching competencies. The cases included Coke in the Cross Hairs, which examined globalization and water constraints, and the Fishbanks Simulation on renewable resources and industry self-regulation. The session highlighted the trend by ARCS members such as Darden, Harvard Business School and the Ivey School of Business to publish an increasing number of environmental and social sustainability cases.

James E. Rogers, chair, president and CEO of Duke Energy, served as the ARCS Conference keynote speaker. In addition, Ma Jun, executive director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs and a leading expert on supply chains in China, spoke via video conference to the group about the China Water Pollution Map and Air Pollution Map his organization has produced. This publicly-available data has driven multinational firms to address their social and environmental impacts in the region. Jun is a Yale World Fellow who was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2006 and was recently awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize.

Commissioner Dan Esty of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and Mark Vachon, vice president of Ecomagination at GE, also spoke on government and corporate efforts to achieve sustainability aims during the conference.

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


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Darden School of Business
University of Virginia