Vision, Mission and Definitions

Smeal vision statement and definition mission


Excellence in business education is synonymous with business education for sustainability.

Business research is helping to understand and solve the world’s most intractable social, environmental, and economic challenges. 

And Smeal is one of the best business schools in the world in the area of sustainability through our teaching, research, outreach.


We will move toward this vision as we pursue our mission:

  1. Through our teaching, we will enhance the understanding of sustainable business practices and produce knowledgeable graduates prepared to apply these practices at work and at home.  Over 14,000 undergraduates have already gone through our course in sustainable business.
  2. Through our research, we will create knowledge to advance sustainable business practice through a collaborative approach that unites the strengths of business with the natural sciences, social sciences, engineering and law/policy. Smeal has over 30 faculty across all departments teaching and doing research in sustainability. Around Smeal are over 400 Penn State faculty with expertise in water security, sustainable agriculture, labor rights, artificial intelligence, material science, renewable energy and much more.
  3. Through our outreach, we will work with industry, non-profits, and government to provide thought leadership in understanding and implementing sustainable business practices through events, student research projects, and design labs.
  4. Through our building and business operations, we will “walk the talk” by working collaboratively with on and off-campus partners, such as the Office of Physical Plant, to test and advance methods for engaging building occupants and visitors for educational purposes and to improve overall building performance to reduce costs and maximize positive impact on our grounds and in our community.


Built on Fundamentals - widening our analysis to include environmental/social costs and risks means we raise (not lower) our standards for hard-nosed business analysis

Value Diversity - no company or organization can be a leader in sustainability without leading in diversity and inclusion. The intersections between economic, social and environmental challenges require inclusive, equitable decision-making processes used to generate solutions, engaging people from different geographies, genders, ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds, functions, disciplines, and industries.

Part of the Ingredients, not the Icing - sustainability is most effective when built in from the beginning (e.g. of analysis, product development, business model generation, valuation models) not just as the “icing” applied at the end

Strategic imperative – in our research and teaching, we focus on operational integration to save energy, reduce waste, and protect worker safety but acknowledge the greater rewards and responsibilities are in market transformation: pioneering new products, supply chain transparency and disruptive innovations

Focus on results not just methods - we focus on business or market-based financial, social and ecological outcomes and impact, not just on means and methods which can have adverse effects when applied in a real business or market context.

Smeal Definitions of Sustainability

Definition of sustainability:

Business sustainability is defined as the governance and management of the triple bottom line - a process by which companies and markets manage financial, social and environmental risks, obligations and opportunities. 

Business sustainability represents resiliency over time – businesses that can survive shocks because they are intimately connected to healthy economic, social and environmental systems. These businesses create economic value and contribute to healthy ecosystems and strong communities (Financial Times).

Definition of Sustainable Business Research and Teaching

General Criteria

Sustainable business research and teaching aims to understand, develop or assess business and market-strategies for sustaining, restoring, or managing the earth’s resources to meet society’s current and future needs. This research and teaching addresses three dimensions of sustainability:

  1. Economic profitability
  2. Social responsibility
  3. Environmental conservation and restoration

Defining the Three Dimensions

Economical profitability refers to the financial benefit that is realized when the amount of revenue gained from a business activity exceeds the expenses (including taxes) needed to initiate and/or sustain the activity. Also included here are other traditional measures of business success from reducing cost per unit of production to the provision of jobs to market share and stock performance measures like market cap, price-to-earnings ratios, etc.

Social responsibility occurs when the formal and informal processes, systems, structures and relationships actively support the capacity of current and future generations to create healthy and liveable communities. Socially sustainable communities are equitable, diverse, connected, democratic and provide a good quality of life. Included in this definition is the safeguarding of human and labor rights in the supply chain and operations.

Environmental conservation and restoration occurs through the protection of Earth's life support systems, the maintenance of biodiversity, and preservation of our natural heritage and addresses the cumulative, long-term, and global consequences of business activities.

Two Levels of Sustainability Research and Teaching

Finally, there are two sub-categories of sustainable business research and teaching:

Sustainability-focused business research and teaching meets the general criteria and intentionally considers all three dimensions of sustainability.

Sustainability-related business research and teaching meets the general criteria in the paragraph above and focuses on economic profitability and its intersection with at least one of the other two dimensions of sustainability.