The Penn State Smeal College of Business undergraduate student chapter of Net Impact, an organization dedicated to sustainability, recently earned the national Net Impact organization’s Small Steps, Big Wins Campus Challenge. In addition, the chapter was granted gold standing by the national organization and named one of the top three undergraduate chapters in the nation.
The Small Steps, Big Wins Campus Challenge pitted 76 universities against each other in performing and recording positive social and environmental actions on the myActions social platform. The Penn State team won the national title with 34,731 actions.
Through their participation in the challenge, Penn State students prevented 76,267 lbs. of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere and raised more than $5,000 for nonprofit causes such as The American Red Cross and the World Wildlife Fund.
“Our students made this happen through a focused effort to mobilize for the environment in a powerful way,” said Ron Johnson, senior instructor in management and organization and the Net Impact undergraduate student chapter adviser. “This semester, we introduced the program to the 650 students in our "Socially Responsible, Sustainable and Ethical Business Practice" course. Each student could measure and compare their progress with others and understand the collective impact across our campus and other regions.
“Our undergrads really hit the ground running with this organization, and I think that’s indicative of our students’ dedication to sustainability and social responsibility," he added.
Students took actions in four categories: Save Power (saving gas and electricity), Reduce (recycle, reuse, reduce and refuse materials), Help Others (volunteering, acts of kindness), and Learn & Lead (campus organizing, educational resources and impact career advice). For each action taken, they earned points for their school and virtual rewards and generated a donation for a nonprofit from the myActions Community of Donors.
“For example, students had the option to record actions such as riding public transit, carpooling and walking to class, which reduce carbon emissions,” said Elizabeth Peterson, executive vice president of the student group. “Students also had the option of recording when they used a refillable water bottle; we hope that this action will become more of a habit for our students and overall reduce the amount of waste that goes into landfills since not all plastic is recycled.”
“Our undergrads really hit the ground running with this organization, and I think that’s indicative of our students’ dedication to sustainability and social responsibility.”-- Ron Johnson, senior instructor in management and organization, Smeal College of Business
The student chapter’s participation in the Small Steps, Big Wins Campus Challenge was just one of the many activities that contributed to the chapter earning gold standing. Granted by the Net Impact network, gold standing is determined through a rigorous set of requirements based on activities, programming and membership reach.
“It’s exciting to be granted gold standing, particularly because it’s just the second full year that the organization has existed at the Penn State undergraduate level,” said Johnson. “Our undergrads really hit the ground running with this organization, and I think that’s indicative of our students’ dedication to sustainability and social responsibility.”
The Small Steps, Big Wins competition sponsors included Alcoa Foundation, Net Impact and Newman’s Own Foundation.
About Sustainability at the Smeal College of Business
The Smeal College of Business is committed to sustainability in education, research, and practice. In 2013, the college's Sustainability Strategic Plan was developed by a college task force and authorized by the dean. Sustainability is infused into courses across the Smeal curriculum, including a two-piece sequence for undergraduates and a concentration in the Penn State Smeal MBA Program. The college also supports faculty research efforts related to business and sustainability, promotes outreach efforts through educational units and research centers, and leads by example in promoting sustainable behavior among current faculty, staff, and students. For more information on sustainability efforts at Smeal, visit the Smeal Sustainability Council's website at www.smeal.psu.edu/sustainability-council.