CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Feb. 2, 2007 — A future marred by stronger storms, rising sea levels, and a dramatic increase in global temperatures unless stronger efforts are made to reduce carbon emissions is depicted in the new report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. But with today's business models generating tremendous strain on the environment, how can free-market capitalism be reconciled with the need for more sustainable business practices?
MIT Sloan School of Management is responding with the launch of its new Laboratory for Sustainable Business (S-Lab) on Feb. 7, 2007. S-Lab is the latest in new, experimental curricula debuting at MIT Sloan, which includes, among others, Conversations with Jack Welch and the Entrepreneurship & Innovation Certificate Program.
“As a world leader in business, engineering and science, MIT is uniquely positioned to define the risks and opportunities involved in creating sustainability-based business models for the future,” says MIT Sloan Professor Richard Locke, one of six leading professors at the business school who collaborated in the creation of the course.
S-Lab recognizes climate change as one of the most daunting challenges mankind faces in creating a sustainable society, says Locke.
“A critical issue for global warming is the ways in which the risks are communicated, and the framing of the solutions, both for specific organizations and for communities,” he says. “S-Lab will teach future CEOs and business leaders the challenges of implementation and how the science of sustainability can be best communicated to policymakers and citizens.”
Key to addressing sustainability, says Locke, is in re-defining it.
“Up until now we have considered aspects of sustainability — climate, energy, water, food, poverty, and social development — in isolation,” he says. “S-Lab is developing an integrated framework to consider the system-wide dynamics of human society along with tools and methodologies for measuring and monitoring sustainability efforts and their applications.”
Interactive computer-based simulations will enable students to play the role of entrepreneurs seeking to maximize their profits investing in companies that impact the environment. In the process, students will experience first hand the challenges of applying renewable resources within the framework of existing policies and business models. They will then have the opportunity to experiment with re-shaping these external factors in a manner that promotes both sustainability and the bottom line.
In another exercise, S-Lab will look at an attempt by Conoco-Phillips, Inc. to win an oil development contract in Ecuador's tropical rain forest. The students will examine what choices can minimize ecological disruption and restore the environment. Case studies, lectures, guest speakers, and hands-on experience through team internships rounds out the S-Lab curriculum.
Locke, the Alvin J. Siteman Professor of Entrepreneurship and Political Science, has been a consistent voice for integrating social and economic concerns into curriculum and research at MIT Sloan. His teaching case on Nike's response to NGO pressures to address labor standards of Nike contractors was selected for teaching at MIT Sloan's 50th Anniversary Convocation.
His work has also helped evolve Nike's reporting and auditing of labor conditions with its quality improvement efforts. Locke was named a 2005 Faculty Pioneer in the Academic Leadership by the Aspen Institute.
S-Lab faculty members also include:
Rebecca Henderson, Eastman Kodak Leaders for Manufacturing Professor of Management
A corporate strategy and policy expert, Henderson focuses on problems of strategy formulation, competition, research management, and product development in high-technology industries.
Simon Johnson, Ronald A. Kurtz (1954) Professor of Entrepreneurship
An expert on emerging markets and developing countries, Johnson has detailed assessments of institutional reform.
Nelson Repenning, Associate Professor of Management
Repenning's work draws on a number of modeling methods including simulation, non-linear dynamics, and game and contract theory.
Anjali Sastry, Assistant Professor of Management Science
Sastry's research spans imprinting in organizations, path dependence, punctuated change, organizational learning, and the pacing of change in organizations.
Jeff Shames, Senior Lecturer
Shames is the retired chairman of MFS Investment Management and the boards of trustees of the MFS Funds. He serves on the Institute's advisory council for the MIT Leadership Center.
Sarah Slaughter, Senior Lecturer
Slaughter received a Best Paper Award from the Journal of Architectural Engineering and is a member of the Board on Infrastructure and the Constructed Environment, National Research Council.
John Sterman, Jay W. Forrester Professor in Computer Studies
Sterman is an expert source on global warming. He studies how to create and sustain process improvement throughout an organization, from the supply chain to product development to strategy. Recent applications span the semiconductor, automotive, computer, software, energy, financial services, and health care industries.