Penn State Smeal to open Center for the Business of Sustainability in 2020

Andy Elder
September 19, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Penn State Smeal College of Business will launch the Center for the Business of Sustainability (CBoS) in 2020 to support how business meets the growing demand for resources in a socially just and environmentally sustainable manner.

The center aligns with Smeal’s vision to be one of the very best business schools in the world, producing leading-edge business research brought to life in active learning environments by an outstanding faculty, and preparing graduates for productive careers in business.

The Center for the Business of Sustainability will allow Smeal to carry that vision beyond the walls of the Business Building and the University Park campus of Penn State. By advancing and disseminating research and best practices, CBoS will engage and equip businesses while inspiring and educating future leaders.

“Penn State’s land-grant mission, our global research enterprise, and our longstanding institutional commitment to sustainability provides the ideal platform to launch a sustainable business center,” said Penn State President Eric Barron.

Smeal defines business sustainability as the way companies manage financial, social and environmental risks and opportunities to ensure resiliency over time: markets, communities and businesses that thrive because they are intimately connected to healthy economic, social and environmental systems.

“The mission of the center is to accelerate the integration of sustainability in business. We aim to transform business practice and education by infusing sustainability across all curricula and for businesses across the enterprise,” said Erik Foley, Smeal’s director of sustainability.

The center will work with key internal partners at Smeal, including the Center for Supply Chain Research and the Farrell Center for Entrepreneurship.

The Center for the Business of Sustainability’s focus is distinct from existing research institutes that develop basic science or optimize  institutional responses. Rather, the Center for the Business of Sustainabilty is oriented toward the business problems of scaling up technological solutions, promoting and strategically deploying new products and services, and devising a regulatory framework that fosters sustainability. In these areas, it will collaborate with Penn State entities such as the Sustainabilty Institute and the Institutes of Energy and the Environment to provide a unique innovation ecosystem for sustainable business.

Center funding will come from company memberships and private contributions. CBoS plans to identify and partner with 20 companies as founding members by July 2020. IBM and Verizon have already joined as founding members. By 2022, the center hopes to establish a $5 million endowment. Already, Smeal alumni have come forward to provide more than $350,000 in seed funding for the center.

The CBoS will provide programs and services for companies, faculty and students, including:

  • For companies: sustainability solutions research, executive education, student-industry projects, and access to talent.
  • For faculty: access to industry expertise and data, plus cases, simulations and other teaching resources for classroom use.
  • For students and alumni: online and residential courses, student-industry projects, networking opportunities, internships, and a mentoring program.

“The center is unique in the boldness of its vision and the breadth of stakeholders it will serve,” Foley said.

“We felt that this historic moment demanded such a response. The world faces unprecedented civilizational challenges — and opportunities. Despite incredible progress in technology, natural capital is diminishing. And in spite of economic growth, economic and health inequalities here and abroad continue. We need a more inclusive and responsible kind of business model. And businesses need a trusted, market-focused partner to effectively integrate sustainability across their enterprise.”

To underscore Smeal’s belief that sustainability is integral to all business practice and education, it has set a number of ambitious goals it has titled 2030 Vision. Those goals include:

  • Three social businesses launched and established in low-income communities.
  • Thirty peer-reviewed publications advancing scholarship in top academic and management journals.
  • Three hundred companies integrating sustainability into their organizational culture, operations, supply chain and product offerings.
  • Three hundred student-industry sustainability projects completed and providing business and social impact.
  • Three-hundred thousand business students per year in the U.S. receiving business education for sustainability.

Alumni and businesses that wish to learn more about Smeal’s sustainability efforts can visit https://www.smeal.psu.edu/sustainability. Individuals and businesses who want to learn more about potential partnerships with the CBoS can call Foley at 814-863-1341 or email erik@psu.edu.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated October 15, 2019