Remarks to the Erb Class of 2016, By Andy Hoffman

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Community Day, Erb class of 2016

One of the benefits of being a professor is that we forget that we are aging. Each year, we are met by a fresh crop of new students that are always the same age.  So, in effect, we are constantly surrounded by a group of people that never grow old.  But of course we are aging.  I can see things as they have evolved while you, the new students, see everything as if it were new.  I envy your perspective.

I have been reflecting on this passage of time as I enter my last year as Faculty Director of the Erb Institute.  Though my five-year term ends in September 2015, I will still stay involved with the institute and continue to work on sustainability research, education and outreach.  But the pending end of my term as faculty director marks a significant point in our history that I think you will benefit from knowing, especially on this occasion of  “Community Day”  as you mark the beginning of a new school year. Continue reading

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by Theresa Miranda

Photo: Courtesy of “The Rawanda Focus” (

How will it be possible to meet the needs of the 1.4 billion people who lack access to electricity? One of the most common arguments is that developing countries will leap-frog developed countries to implement cutting edge technology just as they did in eschewing landlines in favor of mobile phones. New technologies emerge, costs drop, and developing countries take advantage of the R&D money spent by developed countries, bypassing traditional costly centralized infrastructure solutions in favor of light-weight decentralized solutions.

I espoused that view on more than one occasion before spending twelve weeks on the ground in Rwanda, where I worked with Nuru Energy, a company that provides human- and solar-powered LED lighting and mobile phone recharging to rural villagers who lack access to electricity. It became clear that the argument ignores some fundamental differences between phones and lights including:

  • The absence of substitutes in the case of phones
  • The difference between lighting needs in developed and developing countries
  • The ability to easily connect the product with meaningful benefits

Yet, it is precisely these differences that make access to lighting a much bigger challenge than mobile phone adoption. Continue reading

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By Marianna Kerppola

As I entered the classroom, 26 girls between the ages of 10 and 18 chanted: “Welcome to More Than Me Academy. We are the girls of Power class, What is your name?” I answered “Marianna” and watched their charismatic teacher prompt the class to spell out my name phonetically as my heart melted. More Than Me (MTM) Academy is a girls school in Monrovia, Liberia founded in September 2013. MTM enrolls 125 girls from a slum called West Point, a neighborhood known to have the highest rates of child prostitution in the country. MTM works towards making sure that “education and opportunity, not exploitation and poverty, define the lives of the most vulnerable girls from the West Point Slum of Liberia.” Because of the 14 year civil war in Liberia, education has lagged for all children — but girls in particular. Most of the girls’ parents are illiterate, never having a chance to go to school while Charles Taylor pummeled the country. As a result, these families are stuck in a cycle of poverty, without the support of organizations, like MTM. Continue reading

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by Matthew Gacioch

group_3373Set high on the sixth floor of Ross Business School, on August 18th a group of fifteen Erb alumni, External Advisory Board members, and staffers collected for the Ann Arbor Alumni Roadshow. Overlooking the sun-washed city below, the gathering fell on one of those days towards the end of the season that makes you realize just how much we’ll all be missing summer soon.

The Ann Arbor Roadshow was the sixth and final gathering  in a series of alumni engagement events conducted by the Erb Institute across the country, as we work to continue developing our upcoming five-year plan. Led by Erb Managing Director Terry Nelidov and Erb Faculty Director Andy Hoffman, the discussion was stimulated by three questions: What are the current sustainability trends in business? How can management educators respond in addressing sustainability? What should be Erb’s unique contribution within management education?

The conversation began with the prompt that there must be a focus on seeing topics of sustainability as opportunities rather than problems. This distinction can make all the difference in promoting the necessary adjustment within corporate sustainability strategy from being reactive to becoming proactive, which opens the door to thriving in business. That is, after all, one of the Erb Institute’s core motivations. Continue reading

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Best-front_3338-600by Terry Nelidov and Dominique Abed, with Michelle Lin

Terry and Dom met with Laura Flanigan (Erb ‘06), Rosemary Lapka and Michelle Lin (both Erb ‘12)  on a Monday night in August at the  “Little Goat Diner” (Thanks Michelle, for the recommendation!)–a bustling Chicago landmark with a quirky but tasty menu started by Stephanie Izard, a Top Chef winner who is, incidentally, also a U-M grad.  Fortunately, Rosemary came prepared with both U-M and Erb flags (see photos below). Continue reading

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by Emma Wendt

Set in the lovely home of Priyanka Bandyopadhyay ‘09, our July 21, 2014 Seattle Erb Roadshow was an especially lively and intellectually challenging discussion — what I love best about the Erb community.

Our group included nine alumni, ranging from Class of 2000 to 2014, plus two current students, in town for summer internships. (Huge props to the Seattle crew for 100% attendance among those who registered!) Several of the topics discussed had emerged in other Roadshows, such as the relative importance of technical versus interpersonal skills, as well as particular topical areas like water quality and supply chains.

What stood out to me here, though, was the question around what role Erbers can and should take on as a sustainability change agent. While some had obviously Erb-related jobs, many others were taking a more traditional career path, especially the newer grads — and that’s really ok. To make significant sustainability gains, Erb needs to influence across roles, organizations and sectors. Occasionally, this is as a Chief Sustainability Officer. More likely, it will be by equipping real estate developers with green building technologies or helping logistics companies to radically shift how they deliver products and services. Continue reading

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Erb Institute Boston Roadshow

New York to Boston: Oh what a difference 212 miles can make!

by Dominique Abed and Terry Nelidov

On Wednesday, June 25  Mindy Casseres Gomes and Environmental Resources Management served as our gracious hosts at ERM’s beautiful Boston office high atop Beacon Hill. Other participants included Erb alumni Tony Gross, James Aaron, Elizabeth Terry, and guest Rebecca Wilkinson (Assistant VP Corporate Communications in Sustainability, State Street).

Mindy kicked off the discussion with her view that there is now, finally, a clear and pressing need to shift the value-chain perspective upstream by influencing management. The discussion quickly followed suit.  It’s hard to know if the more intimate lunch-time setting contributed to the depth of the Boston discussion, but  conversations were animated and ideas sometimes surprising.

In comparison with New York and San Francisco, Boston themes were more heavily influenced by the quest for thought leadership and the need to work within the Erb’s “sphere of influence,” that is, to concentrate efforts on those areas on which Erb has more immediate influence as an institute, in addition to Ross, SNRE and U-M at large. Continue reading

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Galileo Galilei 2.jpg

“Galileo Galilei 2” by Domenico Tintoretto – [1]. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

By Andrew Hoffman

In the United States, we love to root for the underdog, the voice of reason standing firm in the face of intolerance and resistance.  On the climate change debate, the role model of that figure is the 17th century scientist Galileo Galilei and his clash with the Catholic Church. There are three important components to the parallels between this clash and the clash over climate change. First, Galileo’s work changed how we thought about the universe and our place within it. Second, he was forcibly silenced for holding opinions at variance with those in power, namely the Catholic Church. And third, he used the scientific method to prove the theories, first developed by Copernicus, that so upset the status quo.

Some who challenge the science around climate change have sought to claim the Galileo mantle.

One organization that has been critical of climate science has explicitly adopted the name “The Galileo Movement” and argues that the science behind climate change has been falsely presented as settled.  As they see it, they are the ones who are pushing against the dominant orthodoxy and facing ignorance and intolerance as a result.

As explained on their website, anyone who dares to challenge the “climate status quo” is unfairly branded a “skeptic” or “denier” and treated as an enemy to science.  Members of this movement claim to working to both liberate  people from intellectual tyranny, allowing them to “reclaim their lives from media spin and politician’s control” and protect the economy from destructive government intrusion.

But some refute this comparison and believe it is historically and scientifically incorrect.  Merely challenging the mainstream does not qualify a comparison to Galileo.
Continue reading

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By H Dominique Abed

Not to be outdone by his San Francisco brethren, Nemanja Babic ushered us aloft into an A. T. Kearney, Inc. boardroom with a spectacular view of Times Square.

Terry Nelidov led the discussion which, once again, was lively and rich in ideas. Like San Francisco, technology was a big topic, as was the tension between the growing demand for specialization within the MBA function vs. the broader interdisciplinary and global perspective needed for effective leadership and impact. Climate Change, Consumer Behavior, and the importance of the Health Care Sector also emerged as important themes.

Terry Nelidov, Elizabeth Fastiggi, Dominique Abed, Jenna Agins, Sander Dolder, Katie O’Hare, Megan DeYoung, Kate Drummond, Nemanja Babic, Kaitlin Paulson and Charlotte Coultrap-Bagg (not pictured: Adam Carver)

It was fun seeing our recent grads again, current and incoming students Kate Drummand and Kaitlin Paulson, and External Advisory Board Member, Meghan De Young. I also had the pleasure of meeting Elizabeth Fastiggi (Erb 2003) for the first time.  Thanks so much to all who attended and,of course, to Nemanja for hosting!

Terry and I wrapped up our big apple visit at the United Nations where we met with Chubha Chandra of the United Nations Global Compact to discuss the many opportunities for collaboration (more on that from Terry).   We also learned about a cool website clearinghouse that UNGC maintains for supply-chain tools and resources. If you’re interested in human rights, labor, environment and/or anti-corruption in global supply chains, check it out here.  UN Global Compact also offers free webinars which will be of great interest to Erb students interested in these topics.

Stay tuned for news from our June 25 Boston #ErbRoadshow.

Emma is looking forward to Seattle July 21 next and we will both be traveling to Chicago on August 11, details coming soon.

H Dominique Abed is Marketing and Brand Manager at the Erb Institute. You can find Dominique on and Twitter.


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by Terry Nelidov

Emma and I kicked off this year’s Alumni Roadshows with the first one in San Francisco on June 19. Our trip to the Bay Area included outreach meetings with BSR where we brainstormed collaboration opportunities; with Stanford’s Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment & Resources to learn about our peer institute’s priorities for the coming year; with the Young Professionals in Energy club to discuss energy trends; and with Kleiner Perkins where we got an update on greentech investing.

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