By Pamela Marean, January 2009
When sustainable choices save money, selling those ideas to the budget-conscious is a no-brainer. But, UMass Dartmouth is going further by teaching business students to reach for green innovations and apply them to both established industries and start-ups even when the benefits seem less tangible at first.
While most of the University's population was kicking back during the winter break, Dr. Garry Clayton, Director of The Charlton School of Business MBA program on the Cape, led the first offering of graduate level intercession course MGT 690: Innovation and Creativity in Sustainable Management. The intensive workshop-style course drew 21 students for two action-packed weekends featuring special training in cutting-edge greenhouse emissions auditing directly from Clean Air-Cool Planet, the nation's leading organization dedicated solely to finding and promoting solutions to global warming.
Together, UMass and Clean Air-Cool Planet challenged MGT 690 students to include environmental consciousness in their business models for real and fictional enterprises. The MBA candidates, who started out somewhat skeptical about how green values would fit with their traditional business focus on keeping a trim financial bottom line, were soon finding ways to embrace environmental goals.
UMass Dartmouth's MGT 690 students are representative of the business leaders of tomorrow who are grappling with whether consumers will support businesses that excel in responsibility to the planet by buying products that may cost extra. MGT 690 students learned from Clean Air-Cool Planet what some trailblazers, such as Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream and Timberland Company, are doing to set themselves apart as exemplary green citizens and purveyors of superior goods.
By starting with an energy consumption audit, Clean Air-Cool Planet representatives explained that every enterprise (from homes to townships to universities) can discover the overlapping sweet spots where going green can also save money. An audit also can point out opportunities for innovations that can lead to entirely new products or services.
For example, while brainstorming about the average American's distaste for carpooling, MGT 690 student Alex Sierra hatched the idea for e-Carmony, a Web site which will match up people for ride sharing according to their compatibilities. The software Mr. Sierra is now developing will collect information from potential carpoolers on such things as their starting points and destinations, music preferences and driving styles. Commuters to the UMass Dartmouth campus will serve as a pilot study group for Mr. Sierra's green initiative.
Visions like the one for e-Carmony, inspired by seminars like MGT 690, promise to make a difference for the long-term health of our global ecosystem. When it comes to shrinking our carbon footprints, most of us by now already understand the basics of reducing waste and conserving energy. We need to be inspired to put those ideals into action in ways that haven't been imagined yet. Along with setting standards for zero-carbon-emission lifestyles, UMass Dartmouth is positioning itself as a hub of creative thinking for green innovations large and small.