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Smeal College of Business

Smeal College of Business

Smeal Makes the Business Case for Sustainability

The Smeal College of Business was the academic unit chosen to operationalize the Sustainability Strategic Plan (SSP), being of medium size for an academic unit and a group already dedicated to sustainability internally.  They chose to write their own strategic plan for sustainability based upon the SSP.  In order to write their plan, two task force chairs were appointed, Dr. Jerry Sussman and Dr. Terry Harrison, who chose the remaining task force members consisting of faculty and staff from various deparments. Dr. Sussman and Dr. Harrison have been long-time scholars and internal advocates of sustainability strategy, were respected among their peers and were therefore seen as the champions to move this initiative forward. 

They viewed sustainability as not simply an addendum to their curriculum, but transformational of it.  In that vein, they identified high-level areas to target within each of the above individual areas and developed an impact matrix to help determine the most important targets.  They expected after submission they would need to revise the plan in order to meet the constraints of the unit.  They were pleasantly surprised to find that leadership chose to adopt the entire plan as it stood. 

The plan in its entirety can be viewed here.

Key Lessons & Recommendations

  • Appointing a faculty champion in sustainability was necessary to overcome obstacles and leverage existing support and initiatives. For an administrative unit, appointing a champion is also key.  Make sure they are good communicators and well-respected leaders.
  • Leadership support and dedicated resources were fundamental to success.
  • Viewing sustainability as a transformational concept led to bold innovations rather than small, piecemeal initiatives.
  • An external advisory board can lead to many innovations and is a good way to align with the work of external partners in industry.
  • Using the Penn State Sustainability Strategic Plan (SSP) helps build towards the vision.