Background

A background of the Center for the Business of Sustainability

 “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.”  - Penn State President Eric Barron. 

Timeline of Sustainability at Smeal

Smeal College of Business’ formal engagement with sustainability began in 2008 when then Senior Associate Dean of Research Dr. Gerald Susman began holding lunch talks with interested faculty.

Today, sustainability is a strategic priority for Smeal and a topic that increasingly permeates the educational experiences, research activities, outreach and operations of the college.  Over 30 faculty across all Smeal departments teach and do research in sustainability.  We have engaged thousands of students in Smeal and across the country. Smeal alumni work in impact investing, renewable energy, corporate sustainability and social responsibility, social entrepreneurship, sustainability agriculture, and much more.

We have only just started and much work remains. We invite you to look back at where we have come from:

  • 2009 - Susman formed the Smeal Sustainability Council and later that year an external Sustainability Advisory Board with executives from some of the world’s leading companies including Verizon, Siemens, PepsiCo, International Paper, Hershey, Alcoa, and Dupont
  • 2012 - Dean Charles Whiteman approves the Sustainability Council’s Sustainability Strategic Plan (PDF) for the college, making Smeal the first academic college at Penn State to develop a formal plan focused on sustainability. The plan put forth twenty initiatives across three areas:  teaching, research and service
  • 2012 – Smeal develops undergraduate and graduate Net Impact chapters; the undergraduate chapter with founding advisor Ron Johnson has won four National Sustainability Titles the highlight of which being Chapter of the Year for 2014/15 (Net Impact is an organization that promotes sustainability among business schools and young professionals)
  • 2013 –Ron Johnson develops and begins teaching BA342: Responsible Leadership in Business ensuring sustainability is taught to every undergraduate student; Smeal begins offering a two-course sequence in sustainability featuring BA442 and BA441 developed by professors Karen Winterich and Judd Michael respectively; and a sustainability option is developed for residential MBA students with courses by Judd Michael and Forrest Briscoe; as of this writing over 16,000 students across all majors have gone through the required responsible business course (BA342) and 400 have taken the deeper dive into the two-course sequence.
  • 2014 – Smeal holds first national MBA Sustainability Case Competition, the brainchild of Dr. Gerald Susman, and nearly 30 top business schools from across the country compete; over 880 MBA students have participated
  • 2014- the inaugural Smeal Citizenship Conference organized by the undergraduate Net Impact which has now been attended by over 6,000 undergraduate students
  • 2014 - Dr. Terry Harrison, professor of supply chain and information services, succeeds Gerry Susman as the faculty director of sustainability and begins offering Sustainability Research and Teaching Seminars featuring faculty scholarship and curricular innovations in social impact.
  • 2015 – Business building receives LEED-O&M Gold Certification thanks to the leadership of Dr. Terry Harrison, the Office of Physical Plant, and a team of students
  • 2015 - Smeal names Erik Foley, former Sustainability Institute managing director, as the first full-time director of sustainability. The college commits to realizing the most aspirational of the original goals from the 2012 Sustainability Strategic Plan: to establish a world-class research and education center for sustainable business
  • 2017 – Smeal joins UN PRME (Principles for Responsible Management Education) and the Network for Business Sustainability, two global networks totaling over 850 business schools promoting sustainability research, teaching, community engagement, and industry partnerships 
  • 2018 – creation of the Susman Leadership Award in honor of Dr. Gerald Susman. The award honors exceptional sustainability leadership
  • 2019 – Smeal is approved to form the Center for the Business of Sustainability, Verizon and IBM join the center as Founding Members, and Dan Cahoy, professor of business law, is named the center’s Research Director