As Northwood University Florida begins its Sustainability Management program, leaders from across the globe are discovering the value of sustainable business practices and the key role they play in increasing the bottom line.
From cutting costs, to cultivating sales, to finding ways to increase shareholder interests, companies are finding that creative systems and processes designed to protect the environment and society end up increasing shareholder returns, cutting costs and growing sales in the long run.
As an example in class this week, Kevin Petrovsky, Associate Professor of Environmental Science and Sustainability and his sustainability management students discussed the implications and benefits of fair trade. “Fair trade practices affect all layers of the supply chain as companies strive to bring products to market in historically unequal playing fields,” said Petrovsky. “Coffee is a great example. The ‘bottom of the pyramid’ laborers, growers and shippers, many poor and uneducated, are able to produce the product in a cost effective manner, but have faced less than equitable treatment by the multinational companies in this 70-billion dollar industry.
Now realizing the value of implementing better production and technology practices, farmers in rural areas are gaining a foothold by creating cooperative agreements to strengthen bargaining power. And bigger companies are also getting on the band wagon by setting up schools to educate farmers and their children, as they consider this an investment in long term education and more sustainable technology practices.
“Farmers are also using solar panels to dry beans, eliminating the use of fossil fuel diesel generators and reducing production costs. They are also learning to grow within the forest shade areas instead of cutting trees, thus providing opportunities to attract tourists interested in eco-tourism and protecting natural habitats that would have been lost to deforestation. And corporations in all major economic sectors are also understanding that a focus on the macro, long-term picture, with established benchmarks and quantifiable goals, is paying off instead of concentration on short term profits,” added Petrovsky. “Setting measurable standards, and reporting those achievements to stakeholders, is important for working conditions, wages, child labor issues, the environmental impact, and still guaranteeing a profit,” he said.
To promote fair trade and other sustainable practices on a larger scale, Petrovsky say’s companies need to focus on addressing the confusion of what are sustainable practices, providing clear definitions and standards is essential. “There has to be industry transparency and companies have to demonstrate what they’re doing and how it’s measurable. That’s why programs such as Sustainability Management are of such value,” he said.
Additional Northwood Florida academic programs beginning Fall 2014 include Franchise Management, Fashion Marketing and Management, Management of Information Systems, and Operations and Supply Chain Management.
Northwood University is committed to the most personal attention to prepare students for success in their careers and in their communities; it promotes critical thinking skills, personal effectiveness, and the importance of ethics, individual freedom and responsibility.
Private, nonprofit, and accredited, Northwood University specializes in managerial and entrepreneurial education at three full-service, residential campuses located in southern Florida, mid-Michigan and northern Texas. Adult Degree Programs are available in seven states with many course delivery options including online. The DeVos Graduate School offers accelerated, evening and weekend programming in Michigan, Texas and Florida. The Alden B. Dow Center for Creativity and Enterprise provides system-wide expertise in family enterprise, entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation, and new business development. International education is offered through study abroad and in Program Centers in China (Changchun and Wuxi), Malaysia and Sri Lanka.