The Erb Institute is proud to engage across the University of Michigan on issues related to business sustainability. Through teaching, workshops and fieldwork, we aim to broaden the reach—and deepen the impact—of the Erb Institute and to foster a community of students committed to creating a sustainable world through the power of business.
BA 200: BUSINESSES & LEADERS
BA 200: Businesses & Leaders: The Positive Differences is a mandatory course for all Ross BBA sophomores. Students attend plenary lectures, along with smaller section discussions focusing on the competing tensions of how business leadership affects both organizational performance and broader social outcomes across the private, public and nonprofit sectors. Students are asked to examine the connections among personal values, career goals, decision-making and professional courage. Students reflect on their responsibilities as learners today and as business leaders tomorrow, and they develop personal plans to guide their actions. The Erb Institute supports BA 200 through leading one of the section discussion groups focused on the social and environmental impacts of business.
Fall of 2017 marked the addition of the Erb Institute’s fourth faculty member, Sara Soderstrom, assistant professor of Organizational Studies and Program in the Environment at U-M’s College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. She studies how individuals within organizations mobilize others, develop coalitions, and access key decision makers when they are trying to implement sustainability initiatives. Further, she studies individual and organizational responses to the ambiguity and uncertainty that surrounds sustainability, such as making sense of emergent issues, prioritizing and agenda setting, and balancing multiple goals. Sara, who is also a former Erb Institute postdoctoral fellow, focuses her research on how corporations engage in societal sustainability challenges. Sara teaches Sustainability & the Campus, a course that explores the ecological, social and economic dimensions of sustainability in higher education—using U-M as a “living laboratory” as part of the process.
BUSINESS SUSTAINABILITY WORKSHOPS
Each fall, the Erb Institute hosts a series of management workshops and career sessions with business practitioners. These events are open to both U-M graduate and undergraduate communities, and we encourage students to attend and learn from business leaders in the sustainability space. Among others, we have hosted Hank Mercier (chief optimist at Method) to discuss careers in sustainability; Ouida Chichester (advisory services manager at Business for Social Responsibility, or BSR), to provide a deep dive into business and human rights; and Erica Ocampo (sustainability strategy manager at the Dow Chemical Company) to share insights on sustainability metrics and reporting. We provide these workshops as an opportunity not only for students to create connections within the larger sustainability community but also to help students identify potential career paths.
In addition to in-person workshops, the Erb Institute also offers online webinars with business practitioners and alumni as a supplementary opportunity for students to learn from business experts. These webinars take place live, and recordings are made available to participants afterward. For questions about Erb Institute workshops and webinars, contact us at ErbInstitute@umich.edu.
GLOBAL INITIATIVES PRACTICUM
Through Ross Business School’s Global Initiatives, the Erb Institute has begun offering a Global Practicum on the topic of business sustainability. In 2017, Erb Institute Professor Andy Hoffman led an action-based global course on business and climate change, which included travel to Iceland. The course addressed:
The strategic threats and opportunities created by climate change.
Examples of business models that incorporate sustainability strategy as a response to climate change.
A specific focus on energy issues, particularly markets for renewable energy and alternative-fuel vehicles.
Erb Institute Faculty Director Joe Árvai is in the process of designing a new Ross Global Initiatives course for 2019 that will focus on business sustainability in the unique context of Switzerland. The course will combine fieldwork, company and government visits, meetings with business leaders, and excursions.