BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — To build on its legacy of helping its students and alumni contribute to efforts to find solutions to pressing global challenges, the Indiana University Kelley School of Business is establishing the Institute for Environmental and Social Sustainability.
Nearly 45 professors representing every department at the Kelley School in Bloomington and Indianapolis are actively engaged in research involving environmental and social sustainability. The institute will enable the school to better support and broaden these activities while also offering new courses and educational opportunities for students.
“Many companies are increasingly addressing environmental and sustainability issues to better understand the impact of their activity on people and society,” said Ash Soni, dean of the Kelley School and the Sungkyunkwan Professor. “Our faculty has been engaged in these issues for a while, and this institute will help us to be better positioned to make a difference.”
“We are delving into areas of environmental and social sustainability that many other business schools simply aren’t focusing on,” added Rebecca Slotegraaf, associate dean for research and the Neal Gilliatt Chair. “We offer experience and expertise, and our students want to be even more engaged in this area. And our corporate partners and alumni are looking to us to provide leadership. This institute will help us build stronger momentum and have an innovative impact.”
For example, enrollment in an undergraduate course on sustainability law and policy has tripled since 2017. New courses in climate law and policy — at both the undergraduate and MBA level — and another on business and poverty alleviation have been introduced in recent years, and more new courses are under development. Kelley also offers a co-major in sustainable business at the undergraduate level.
This fall, Kelley will host the second annual Innovations to Tackle Global Sustainability Challenges conference, in collaboration with the Centers for International Business Education and Research at Indiana University, The George Washington University and Georgia Institute of Technology.
The interdisciplinary institute will be led by Kelly Eskew, clinical professor of business law and ethics; and Owen Wu, associate professor of operations and decision technologies and a Grant Thornton Scholar.
Key priorities will include focusing on how businesses can address the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, which have been described as an “urgent call for action by all countries” in a global partnership to end poverty while tackling climate change.
“Our faculty research fellows have a distinguished record of conducting research in the areas of environmental and social sustainability, which serves as a testament to our long-standing commitment to advancing knowledge in these fields,” Wu said, adding that more than 300 research papers by Kelley faculty can be found through the institute’s web site.
Eskew said it’s not just faculty at Kelley who are doing research. Students are studying sustainable organizations, triple bottom line management — which measures the financial, social and environmental performance of a company over time — and climate impacts. She and a Kelley senior studying sustainable business were invited to attend the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference as official delegates.
The institute plans to increase the amount of live case study teaching with business partners and offer graduate and undergraduate students more opportunities to do micro consulting and service learning. Another goal is for the institute to have a global presence, Slotegraaf said. While the institute is based within Kelley, it has begun speaking with business schools with an emphasis on sustainability in Europe and Latin America.
“Sustainability and climate change have become material issues to investors,” Eskew said. “You cannot do business in a global marketplace unless your company is paying attention to sustainable business management and to climate mitigation and adaptation efforts. For example, regulations in the EU impact American businesses that are engaged in Europe’s common marketplace.
“But even without mandates, investors are insisting that companies pay attention to this. It makes companies more resilient when there are economic shocks; it helps to draw talent like our excellent Kelley students.”
What they’re saying:
“It’s exciting to see Kelley leveraging its research expertise and integrating sustainability into its business curriculum. It underlines the fact sustainability is not just the right thing to do, but it is also good for business. There are tremendous growth opportunities anchored in expanding customer expectations, new business models and markets, and even margin expansion through sustainably driven processes. Preparing students with this insight is critical for our collective future.” — Amanda Yates, director for strategy and engagement at 3M Global Sustainability and a 2002 Kelley MBA graduate
“The formation of the Institute for Environmental and Social Sustainability is the right move at the right time, as businesses are increasingly capturing value through sustainability advancement. The interdisciplinary approach at a world-class institution will not only help businesses today but also train the next generation of leaders.” — Kelly Carmichael, vice president of environmental policy and sustainability at NiSource