Action Learning

S-Lab

The Laboratory for Sustainable Business (S-Lab) provides students with a unique opportunity to explore the connection between business, the environment, and society.

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S-Lab

Welcome

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In the Laboratory for Sustainable Business (S-Lab), students explore the intersection of business, the environment, and society, using new knowledge to solve real-world problems.

Laboratory for Sustainable Business (S-Lab)

How can we translate sustainability challenges into future business opportunities? How can businesses and society move together toward a more sustainable and just world? Today, organizations of all kinds are tackling these very questions. S-Lab enables students to bring academic rigor to real world problems, taking the lessons learned in the classroom and applying them to projects that are immediately useful to host organizations - all while advancing the field of sustainability as a whole. 

At MIT Sloan, sustainability is about more than just the environment. It includes economic development, social equity and responsibility, political and personal choices, and environmental action at all levels. Simply put, sustainability is about people and the future we want for ourselves. Through cases, readings, guest speakers, and Action Learning projects, S-Lab students have the chance to affect real change and empower business leaders to take action to improve outcomes in the long-term.

With the support of the MIT Sloan Sustainability Initiative, teams of masters-level MIT students use a problem-formulation methodology developed by MIT Sloan to help organizations determine what sustainability problem they want to solve and why it's important. One of the special features of S-Lab is the diverse, interdisciplinary nature of the teams, which can include MBAs, MIT Sloan Fellows and MIT graduate students.


 

WATCH: Sustainability Initiative Director Jason Jay on Sustainability Lab

S-Lab

Projects

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Sustainability in the Field

S-Lab projects provide high value to hosts by informing key strategic decisions. They deliver professional and effective analysis, advice, and recommendations that are immediately useful to host organizations and advance the field of sustainability as a whole. 

Check out the projects and their results here.

Past S-Lab Hosts Include: 

  • Allagash Brewing Company
  • Amazon
  • Boston Red Sox
  • Colgate Palmolive
  • Disney
  • Environmental Defense Fund
  • Fidelity Investments
  • Gap Inc.
  • Impossible Foods
  • Intel
  • NHL
  • Nike
  • Patagonia
  • Rothy's 
  • World Resources Institute

Click here for information about the Sustainability Initiative at MIT Sloan, including profiles of our faculty, students, and past project hosts. 

S-Lab

Info for Students

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Class Registration

If you are interested in S-Lab, you must bid in the fall for 15.915 Laboratory for Sustainable Business through the MIT Sloan bidding system.


 

Projects & Deliverables Timeline

  • November-December

    MIT Sloan Sustainability Initiative team works with host organizations to develop projects. 

  • January

    Students bid on host projects. 

  • February

    MIT Sloan announces approved host projects to hosts and students. Student teams and hosts establish scope and schedules. Teams formalize the problem definition and research methodology in consultation with host and faculty mentor. 

  • March

    Teams conduct secondary data analysis and develop a detailed work plan for primary research. 

  • April

    Student teams execute primary research and develop recommendations. 

  • May

    Students present final deliverables to host organizations and the MIT community. 

S-Lab Student Voices

  • Cristina Logg, MCP '18, Consultant, Sharma Strategy Group

    “My Biogen S-Lab project really helped me understand what it takes to make the business case for sustainability. My work through the Department of Urban Studies and Planning thus far has been largely theoretical or focused on communities. S-Lab has given me a way to apply my coursework outside the classroom to a private sector context.”  

  • Lucy Wong, M.Arch '06, EMBA '17, NYC Department of Design and Construction, Program Director of Police Unit

    “Working on the Groupo Familia Foundation S-Lab, I learned firsthand that recycling to reduce waste is a worldwide endeavor. Visiting facilities in Medellin, Colombia, and Brooklyn, New York, my perspective on sustainability changed. Not only are recycling programs necessary for urban living, but they also enable families to prosper in an otherwise contained environment. Meeting these hardworking families inspires me to incorporate sustainability excellence into urban projects.”

  • Tiffany Ferguson, MCP '18, Business Engagement Program Manager, Boston Federal Reserve Bank

    “The Sustainability Initiative demonstrated to me that management science and business acumen could be activated towards questions that I generally assumed were the province of the social sector. It was S-Lab discussions that helped me unpack what sustainability looks like in different company contexts, and how to be an effective agent in any of those contexts.”  

S-Lab

Info for Hosts

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The Benefits of Becoming a Host Organization

Imagine that sustainability is a core operating principle for every business. It’s possible. By hosting a team of S-Lab students, you will be taking an important step toward a more sustainable future for all of us. For 6-8 weeks, our highly qualified students will assess a new initiative or tackle a longstanding sustainability challenge in your company.

  • S-Lab teams bring a fresh and grounded perspective to your organization’s strategy and decision making.
  • Teams add short-term capacity to your firm, conducting analysis that can spur further investment and capability building.
  • S-Lab projects connect your organization with MIT research, providing insight and rigor to your sustainability strategy.

The MIT Sloan Sustainability Initiative carefully sources hosts and projects with an eye towards building long-term partnerships. Ideally, we seek projects sponsored by MIT Sloan alumni, but always are on the lookout for S-Lab projects that lead to future engagement with us through internships and other research.

The Sustainability Initiative team works with host organizations to identify potential projects, and provide guidance to student teams on project scope, schedule and deliverables. Each team works remotely from MIT. Hosts include large and small companies, investors, non-profit institutions, and government agencies.

Host organizations do not pay S-Lab students any salary or compensation. MIT policy prohibits full-time students from receiving compensation for course-related work. 

Becoming a Host

S-Lab is highly competitive. Not all host candidates are matched with a student team. 


 

Host Timeline

  • November

    Hosts schedule a project scoping call with the Sustainability Initiative at MIT Sloan. Contact: sustainability@sloan.mit.edu.

  • December

    Final S-Lab project proposals due from host organizations using our online system. 

  • January

    MIT Sloan announces approved host projects to hosts and students. 

  • February

    Student teams and hosts establish scope and schedules. Teams formalize the problem definition and research methodology in consultation with host and faculty mentor. 

  • March

    Teams conduct secondary data analysis and develop a detailed work plan for primary research. 

  • April

    Student teams execute primary research and develop recommendations. 

  • May

    Student teams present final deliverables to host organizations.

If you have any questions, contact Jason Jay at jjay@mit.edu (617-253-0594) or Bethany Patten at bpatten@mit.edu

S-Lab Voices

  • Donnie Hodge, CEO, Alta Gracia

    "I am so impressed with what [the S-Lab Team] accomplished in a short time period. I live in the real world and sometimes I think there is a broad expanse separating that world from academia but you bridged that gap. Your work is among the best I have seen. In fact I am already incorporating the idea of comparing to industry standards into our marketing. You have been a pleasure to work with.”

  • Erika Karp, CEO, Cornerstone Capital Group

    "It was terrific; the team was outstanding; they took guidance beautifully; and it will produce an important contribution to the public good.”

  • Jake Kritzer, Environmental Defense Fund

    "It’s always a great experience! I'm continually impressed by the diversity of backgrounds, dedication, enthusiasm and high caliber of the students. These projects give me access to expertise I don't have, and allow me to explore ideas and issues I would not be able to otherwise."

  • Vance Merolla, Colgate-Palmolive Company

    "The S-Lab program, focused on solving real-world sustainability problems, is a great way to bring in new thinking and ‘jump-start’ leading-edge initiatives. The student team was highly motivated and self-directed and brought diverse perspectives to the assigned problem. Overall, a very productive and satisfying experience for our company. Would highly recommend to others."

  • Erika Karp, CEO, Cornerstone Capital Group

    "It was a privilege and a pleasure to work with such an articulate, analytical, proactive, organized and forward-thinking group! The ‘purpose-driven’ nature of the project allowed for terrific energy and creativity as the team truly embraced the principles of "sustainable" finance … The fact that the project represents a real life opportunity for alignment across the capital markets, was truly taken to heart by our team.”

  • Neha Singh, Former Senior Director of Operations, Girl Scouts of the USA

    "This project was so valuable because the team provided actionable recommendations, which we are currently working on implementing. We can't wait to see what our energy savings look like!" 

  • Marina Velez, The Nature Conservancy

    "Very positive experience, a pleasure to be working with very professional and action driven individuals. In a way, their collaboration and Project felt a bit like a luxury to us, especially since they provided a perspective and information edge that we currently do not have for the Project. The conversations with the students and the project in turn forced us and our local partners to think differently about the situation at hand and to dig deeper for the information we require to ‘take a next step’ in our conservation efforts and sustainable lobster management. Thanks again, it was a pleasure.”

  • John Sterman, Jay W. Forrester Professor in Computer Science, Professor of System Dynamics and Engineering Systems

    "To make a difference in the climate change challenge, we have to change the way everybody thinks about their personal energy choices.”

S-Lab team at EDF site

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