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Ian Edwards, MBA

Ian Edwards, MBA '15

Business "as usual" no longer applies in a world in which we need to vastly rethink how we use resources, maximize our environment, and treat our human capital. With this, Bard's unique MBA in Sustainability is on point—providing foundational MBA learning, with sustainability embedded at all levels. It's a necessary focus for business leaders to understand impacts, risks, opportunities, and strategy as we grapple with game-changing sustainability issues such as global warming.

We share our world with seven billion people. Soon there will be nine billion of us, all aspiring to a good quality of life. Can we meet human needs without destroying the ecological systems and exhausting the natural resources on which our civilization depends? The answer lies in sustainable business.

Sustainability in Business

A sustainable company seeks to operate on principles engineered by nature:

     · No pollution: In nature, all waste from one production process is food for another.
     · No energy crisis: Nature runs on abundant renewable energy.
     · No system too big to fail: Nature promotes and thrives on diversity.

When our business systems have learned to mimic natural systems, then we can see our way to a just and prosperous future. Serious sustainability is not just about conserving water or energy. It requires radically rethinking the way business models are designed, from the ground up. It demands that companies not only earn profits for shareholders, but do so by engaging customers, employees, suppliers, and communities in the underlying mission of building a sustainable world.

Sustainable Business Education

The sustainability revolution in business began when a handful of corporate leaders started to rethink the fundamental purpose of business enterprise. As the pioneering CEO of Interface Carpets, the late Ray Anderson, put it, “What’s the business case for ending life on earth?” By the late 1990s, innovative companies had begun to develop sustainability business practices as a successful challenge to business as usual.

Sustainability at Bard

Bard College, the home of the Bard MBA program, is an ongoing laboratory for business sustainability. Bard was an early adopter of the Sustainability Tracking Assessment and Rating System (STARS), gaining a silver rating. STARS is a point-based system similar in concept to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), with points assigned in three overarching categories: operations, planning and administration, and curriculum.

Social Entrepreneurs and Sustainability

What is the difference between a graduate business program in “social entrepreneurship” and the Bard MBA in Sustainability? Social entrepreneurs focus on only two bottom lines: a social mission and financial sustainability. Bard’s program, by contrast, integrates three bottom lines: planet, profit, and people. We foreground a business strategy predicated on meeting human needs, achieving continuous reduction in ecological impact, and treating all stakeholders with justice and respect.