Sustainable Business Lab
Implementing sustainable practices
The Sustainable Business Lab (S-Lab) provides students an opportunity to apply concepts, theories, and tools acquired through lectures, guest presentations, panel discussions, computer-based simulations, case studies, and class discussions, in order to explore the connection between business practices and environmental change. The S-Lab culminates in a three-month consulting project in which student teams work to solve the real-world sustainability challenges of the program’s partner companies. Through these projects, students see firsthand the many challenges and rewards of promoting environmental responsibility in an increasingly complex economy.
How S-Lab Works
Under the guidance of an MIT faculty mentor, interdisciplinary teams of four students negotiate and manage all aspects of a work plan, which serves as a contract among all team members, the partner company, and the faculty mentor. Student teams are responsible for delivering a final report with analysis, advice, and recommendations that will serve as a sustainability “user’s manual” for the host company. Teams also create posters, describing their projects for S-Lab Day, when presentations are made to the MIT community and all host organizations. S-Lab students are expected to strive for contributions that will have a long-term impact — for that reason, final reports are made publicly available to help advance the field of sustainability as a whole — closing the loop on MIT’s practice of student’s attaining real-world experience, and translating that into real, widespread benefits.
The insightful work of S-Lab teams helps partner companies see all the possibilities for implementing sustainable business practices, sometimes by translating challenges into opportunities to provide new products or services, reinvent past products, or solve ongoing problems with a shift in operations, infrastructure, or the supply chain. Past S-Lab partners have included large companies such as Disney, Intel, and Nike, as well as smaller companies like Good Energies, GoLoCo, and Green Fuel Technologies. S-Lab students also have worked with NGOs such as the Clinton Climate Initiative (CCI), the U.S. Business Council for Sustainable Development, and MiBanco.
“One of the reasons I came to Sloan was because I wanted to be at a top MBA institution worldwide. But I also wanted access to working with the latest innovations and the highest technology that was coming out of the MIT labs.”
“The conditions in the neighborhoods we were visiting were different than what we realized before getting there. Beyond that, what was surprising was that there weren’t surprises!”
“These companies are really excited to work with MIT students.They reach out to the community to set up these projects and are great to work with. They give us access to all their resources and are very open to us.”
“Because of the diversity of our backgrounds, when we hit the ground in Tanzania it almost was a natural play where different people assume different roles.”
“I love being in a place that is such a nexus of people and ideas — people coming to learn something new and to define themselves. Being a part of that process is a real honor and a real gift.”
"The relationships that we forged helped us to turn out a better project. We were able to test our hypotheses with the people that we spoke with every single day. And really, I think the friendships that you develop really propel the work that you’re doing."
“Our mission, along with the mission of MIT Sloan, is to both develop leaders who make a difference in the world, and also to make a contribution to thinking about the topic of leadership.”
“I can honestly say that when I was planning on coming to business school I never thought that witnessing the birth of a child would be included in the education. It was definitely an experience.”
“It was really rewarding that they wanted to know what we thought. We left there being fairly certain that they will do some of the things that we suggested.”
“We’re very interdisciplinary. Among the faculty in the group are an economist, a political scientist, a sociologist, and an industrial relations specialist. We’ve always made a big effort to be open to a variety of perspectives, but also to go beyond being open to them, to want to bring them in, because it makes for a richer environment.”
“At MIT Sloan you have a lot of opportunities to explore entrepreneurship. Especially in a place like Kampala where you have a lot of development, entrepreneurship can be very exciting.”
“I came to Sloan because of its high rankings within the sustainability community, specifically the professors. The S-Lab class itself is part of what drew me to Sloan. And the reason I came to business school was to learn the business speak that really is what connects with people."
“I knew about American business, but not enough about what’s really become a global economy. … You can read about it all you want, but there’s no substitute for being there and seeing the context and seeing how completely different these [other countries] are.”
“The concept behind enterprise architecture is that you have all these machines, you have all these business processes, you have all these people doing things, how do you make sure they all come together and achieve business objectives that make you more competitive.”
“I learn from what I do on the outside, I bring it back into my classrooms, and I bring it back into interpreting my research. It informs my research, and my research informs my practice.”