Letter from the Director


It has been ten years since we launched MIT Sloan’s first class on sustainability. Since then, we have been proud to see a surge in the visibility, engagement, and impact of our work across the Institute and beyond.

This year was particularly momentous for the sustainability field because of COP21, the UN climate negotiations, which shined a spotlight on the urgency of our endeavor. Our own Professor John Sterman was in Paris for the conference. Many of you have read his incisive analysis of the landmark accord that commits nearly every nation to reducing greenhouse gas emissions to help mitigate the most severe effects of climate change. In the Huffington Post, he wrote, “Let us praise the real progress made while we loudly and clearly tell our leaders that goals are not actions, pledges are merely promises, and time is running out.” Back in Cambridge, we ran a social media campaign, #OurAccord, to share insights and personal commitments related the agreement, which generated more than 14,000 impressions.

Sterman helped shape the public dialogue on climate change in other ways, too. For instance, his work with Climate Interactive, an MIT Sloan spin-out organization, showed that the collective pledges by countries before the Paris talks would lower the warming of the planet at century’s end to about 3.5 degrees celsius. A front page story in the New York Times called it, “a sign that 20 years of disappointing negotiations may be giving way to an era when countries start to move the needle on the projected global temperature.” In addition, we saw a significant increase in the use of the World Climate Game, an interactive, role-play simulation that allows participants to explore the risks of climate change and the challenges of negotiating international agreements to reduce carbon emissions.  

This intensified interest in climate policy and sustainability is reflected here at MIT Sloan. This year, a record number of students completed the Sustainability Certificate program. Roughly one-third of graduating MIT Sloan students have taken three or more sustainability classes. The marquee-level addition of the Sustainability Certificate within MIT’s Environmental Solutions Initiative helped raise our profile. Today, we see on the horizon a time when MIT Sloan will be the #1 destination for people who want to be leaders in sustainable business.

This was also the year of Sustainability-Oriented Innovation. We started an SOI blog series on MIT Sloan Management Review’s website that analyzed ways to accelerate the move toward sustainability for the next generation of companies and products. We launched a new course focusing on SOI and entrepreneurship, where students advanced new offerings and enterprises to solve social problems. SOI was the theme of MIT’s annual Sustainability Summit. This year, we also created a new tool to help entrepreneurs incorporate sustainability into their business models using MIT Sloan’s Disciplined Entrepreneurship approach.

Our alumni and corporate network is strong and growing every day. In house, we refer to this as “the long green line”—the growing network of people and organizations that connect with MIT Sloan. We are united by a concern for the future of society and the planet and an abiding belief in the intellectual and spiritual potential of people to overcome the challenges we face.

As the Sustainability Initiative enters its next decade, I want to take a moment to express my personal gratitude. Ten years ago, I was a doctoral student here at MIT. I have vivid memories of sitting in E51 listening to Professor Sterman give a passionate, masterful lecture about the exceedingly complex challenges of sustainability. I remember collaborating with Peter Senge and Wanda Orlikowski on the launch of the L-Lab class. These faculty were my heroes then, and today, I am lucky to call them my colleagues.
I am also grateful for all of you. Each day I come to work inspired by your creativity and generosity. Together, we can create a future where business is a force for sustainable, inclusive prosperity in the world.

Here’s to the next 10 years! 

Jason Jay