The Bottom Line: People, Planet, Profit
College of Business Launches New Green M.B.A. Program
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Seasonal plants are not the only thing that will turn green during the spring 2007 semester at SF State.

The College of Business is now offering one of the few master’s programs in sustainable business on the West Coast, joining a small cadre of graduate business programs across the Bay Area and the nation.

Called the M.B.A. in Sustainable Business Emphasis, the specialization is focused not only on the economic goals but also the social and environmental impacts of doing business. In business and environmental circles this approach is commonly known as the “triple bottom line” adding to the traditional expectations of businesspeople.

The program is trying to “transform mainstream business from the inside” by teaching future leaders core principles of being sustainable, said Murray Silverman, one of the emphasis’ creators and a professor of management at the SF State College of Business.

Pressure from consumers, activists and in some cases, from inside the halls of industry, has prompted more recognition of sustainability and demand for professionals who understand its principles, Silverman said.

Silverman suggested that firms from The Gap to major California wine companies seek businesspeople able to apply the triple bottom line.

If businesses create problems that become liabilities, stockholders might disapprove. The more waste a firm creates the more money must be spent on disposal. If a firm pollutes heavily or fails to provide worker safety an ensuing public relations rift is likely to hurt the corporate reputation and possibly profits, Silverman said.

“People like working for a good company. No one wants to hear. ‘Daddy, daddy I heard your company spilled toxic waste in the river,’” Silverman said.

Topics addressing sustainability will be covered in one-third of the course work for the Sustainable M.B.A. Classes will be at the new downtown San Francisco campus at the Westfield Centre.

Silverman said he wants the emphasis to attract competitive traditional and non-traditional prospective students.

“We also want students who might reject the idea of business school because of their social values. This emphasis shows that students have the opportunity to bring their environmental and social values into the business world. It’s a way to bring them all together,” Silverman said.

By 1995 many business schools started offering courses in sustainability such as eco-friendly marketing and studies into alternative energy. At the time SF State started Business 857: Business Management and Environmental Leadership.

In 1998, more firms started commissioning annual in-house or third party sustainability reports. In the meantime, SF State slowly started offering more applicable courses and students started making their own tracks to business sustainability.

“I took 857 and it changed my life. I knew I could do business and still live my values,” said Peggy Duvette, a 2003 M.B.A graduate.

Silverman said Duvette essentially graduated with the sustainable emphasis before it was officially offered.

Duvette now works for the Natural Capital Institute, of Paul Hawkins’ Natural Capitalism fame on the Wiser Project, a nonprofit organization in San Francisco that plans to launch an online tool to connect businesses, entrepreneurs, activists, and consumers who are concerned with sustainability.

“I’m becoming an expert in sustainability—you can make a lot of money,” Duvette said.

The Presidio School of Management at Presidio World College and New College of California, both in San Francisco offer “green” business graduate programs.

However, SF State’s sustainable specialization focuses primarily on integrating sustainability into established firms rather than green entrepreneurship and is different than other Bay Area options because it is part of a larger traditional business school.

“We are the only CSU to offer anything like this and we have the gold standard of accreditation,” Silverman said.

The school is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Business Schools, which requires 90 percent of graduate level faculty to have Ph.D.s.

The College of Business will hold an open information session for anyone interested in the Sustainable M.B.A Emphasis on Wednesday, Feb. 21 from noon to 1 p.m. at the new downtown campus.

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