B-School Fundamentals for Sustainability

By John Mandyck, CSO of United Technologies
April 21, 2017

As the chief sustainability officer of United Technologies, I am often invited to college campuses to speak to students about what my company does to advance sustainability in the United States and around the world. And I’m proud of the answer.

People, Communities, and the Environment

The United Technologies sustainability platform consists of three pillars:

People — Among United Technologies’ greatest assets are the expertise, creativity and passion of our employees. We sustain our workforce through opportunity and employee development. In the last twenty years, we’ve invested $1.2 billion through our Employee Scholar Program to help our employees earn 38,000 college degrees.

Communities — We believe that financial performance and corporate responsibility go hand in hand while we strive to improve people’s quality of life everywhere we do business. We support initiatives and employee volunteerism for vibrant communities, STEM education and sustainable cities.

Environment – We believe we can do good for the planet while we do good for our customers and shareowners. Whether it’s developing energy-efficient solutions for green buildings that can change how cities urbanize, pioneering technologies to extend the world’s food supply, or setting the standard for green aviation through sustainable factories and technologies, United Technologies is leading the way to solving some of the toughest environmental challenges of tomorrow.

While we maximize the effectiveness of our environmental technologies, we actively minimize our environmental footprint — in the last 20 years, United Technologies tripled its revenues while lowering greenhouse gas emissions 34% and water consumption 57%, all on an absolute basis.

What does a CSO do?

Often, after outlining UTC’s sustainability program, I am asked, “Ok, but what does a chief sustainability officer (CSO) do every day?” That’s a fair question. Sustainability is still an emerging profession – and no two jobs in this space are the same. In addition to the private sector, large cities are starting to create CSO positions too. CSOs come from all backgrounds – marketing, technology, policy, environmental affairs, and more – and reflect the culture and priorities of their companies.

Some focus on lowering their environmental footprint. Some focus on the role for emerging environmental technologies. Some focus on corporate social responsibility. Some engage with stakeholders to achieve sustainable outcomes. Some focus on thought leadership to bring new ideas forward. We organize our program at United Technologies to do all of these activities.

My day-to-day routine focuses on outreach to key stakeholders – customers, policy-makers, thought-leaders, students and more – to expand the dialogue on three issues important to us: advancing green aviation, accelerating the adoption of green buildings and lowering food waste through cold chain development. To do this, we sponsor research, we convene experts, we share our thinking and we explore possibilities to help the world grow and urbanize more sustainably.

Business Schools and Sustainability

The question of what I do each day is sometimes followed by, “If I want a career in sustainability, what are my options?”

Fortunately, business schools around the country are adopting more and more sustainability-focused classes, as well as entire programs dedicated to corporate responsibility and sustainability. Getting started in one of these programs is a great first step.

Students and business school faculty interested in advancing sustainability curricula should focus on three key areas:

  1. Connect to the mega trends in the world – our global population is expected to grow 35% in just 35 years, and at that point in 2050, nearly 70% of all people will live in cities. These megatrends are redefining our society and our economy with big implications for sustainability.
  2. Recognize sustainability as a business strategy – sophisticated companies realize they can offer a value proposition to their customers by doing good for the planet, which often times can provide differentiation in industries.
  3. Incorporate multiple disciplines into sustainability classes – successful sustainability programs are drawing on multidisciplinary backgrounds in marketing, public policy, business, communications, engineering, science, and more. Many skills and perspectives are needed to help the world advance sustainably.

Making a Difference

Increasingly, workforce entrants are looking for employers who are making a difference in the world. Sustainability is a key way companies can make that difference. And careers in sustainability are a key way business school graduates can immediately make a difference with their careers. Business schools can prepare students for this field by providing the context, strategies and skills to accelerate sustainability around the world.

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To continue the conversation, tweet me @JohnMandyck.

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