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Building a Sustainable Business Development Learning Factory


Barrie Litzky,

About the Project

Building a Sustainable Business Development Learning Factory was funded by Penn State's Sustainability Institute's Reinvention Fund at the Great Valley campus in the amount of $15,000.

The purpose of this project is to build a sustainable business learning factory, which engages students in immersive experiences in sustainable business development and sustainable management practices. With Reinvention Funds, we are able to support some of the teaching and outreach initiatives already in place in the area through the Penn State Great Valley Consortium for Sustainable Business Development.  In collaboration with the faculty, staff, and students involved in the GridSTAR Summer Immersive Leadership Experience, we are helping to further lay the groundwork for a living laboratory in the Philadelphia region.

One of the faculty members on the team developed and is teaching Cornerstones of Sustainability to a group of GridSTAR students who are concurrently serving as interns at various organizations around the Delaware Valley.  In addition to historical and theoretical grounding in sustainability, the student experiences are punctuated by guest lectures and site visits to sustainable businesses and organizations.  Hardik Savalia, Senior Associate for B-Corporation Standards team and Michael Peck, Founder of MAPA Group, North American delegate for Mondragon, the world’s largest industrial worker cooperative Skyped into the classroom to engage with the students. Through these two lectures, the students were able to learn about a new organizational form that uses the power of business to address social and environmental problems, and the benefits of forming union worker owned cooperatives.  Fields trip topics include strategic sustainability and supply chains at Campbell’s Soup, the benefits of high-tunnels to urban agriculture at the Philadelphia Extension, food justice issues and consumer cooperatives at Weaver’s Way CSA, energy efficiency and reliability at PJM Interconnection, and the Green Schools initiative sponsored by the Delaware Valley Green Building Council, whose offices are located in a Philadelphia co-working space.  Students are required to complete a B-Impact Assessment for a local company, some of which are food trucks at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.

We were fortunate to be assigned an intern, Ms. Julia Abreu, a senior at University Park studying Energy, Business and Finance.  Julia is working this summer on three major initiatives.  The first is to help coordinate the  Growing Cities, a film about urban farming in America.  Second, Julia is working with the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia helping them with a number of initiatives including: a) Social media content development: assisting with the creation and execution of several social media campaigns promoting events, members and SBN brand; assisting with development of content for Facebook page, b) Lead Development: Developing a database of potential members in the Philadelphia region, and c) Database management: managing/updating a database of over 8,000 contacts.  Finally, Julia and Dr. Eric Stein are working together on the following a) Cost -Benefit Analysis of Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA): Financial Sustainability Model in which Julia is assisting Dr. Stein in establishing the capital and operating costs of growing leafy vegetables and herbs in a controlled environment (CEA). These include capital costs to set up the systems as well as operating costs.  She is also conducting research on the revenue side including current pricing models such as retail direct, wholesale, and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA); and  b) Hydroponic Urban Farming System Setup and Operation in which Julia assists in designing and constructing an outdoor non-circulating hydroponic system located at a community garden in Rose Tree Park Community Garden in Media, PA as well as assisting in the harvesting and distribution of the produce to participants of a Transition Town group whose mission is to promote local economic development and sustainable practices also located in Media, PA. 

In addition to engaged scholarship projects noted above, Reinvention funds allowed us to continue our longstanding involvement as members and sponsors of the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia.  We co-sponsored the Triple Bottom Line Series: A Look at the Social Impact of TBL Businesses which tackled the tough topic of living wages.  Representatives from Brandywine and Great valley participated in the SBN’s Meet the Universities event, where we were able to showcase our academic, continuing professional education, and community programs.