About

Motivation

Issues such as climate change and global warming, human rights, and health and sanitation for all have garnered significant attention in recent years, in part, due to the United Nations’ adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Leading businesses realize that it is no longer enough to maximize profits and cater only to shareholders; it is also critical to integrate the well-being of the planet and its people into their business models. Such a transformation to managing the “triple bottom line” of people, planet and profit requires looking at business and its operations through a new lens.

In this context, “sustainability” – the practice of integrating environmental and societal concerns into business models – is emerging as a unifying principle to guide firm behavior. No longer is it considered sufficient or sustainable to devote an arm of the company to philanthropic giving. Rather, sustainable business practice entails making the ethical and strategic concerns of all stakeholders central to all aspects of the firm. This requires a continuous process of engagement with multiple stakeholders who influence or are influenced by the company, including customers, employees, investors, regulators, and activists.

Leading conceptual and empirical research shows that – when implemented correctly – sustainability initiatives can have positive social and environmental effects as well as contribute to a company’s competitive advantage, drive innovation within and across industries, reduce exposure to risk, and positively impact various measures of financial performance. In other words, it is possible to “do well by doing good.” Equally, caring for the wellbeing of the planet and its people while conducting business is, in our view, simply the right thing to do. While this kind of thinking is powerful and would benefit both business and society, achieving this symbiotic relationship between business, society, and the environment requires a strategic understanding of when, why, and how sustainability initiatives create value for all stakeholders.

To this end, the most effective business leaders of the 21st century need to grasp the breadth and depth of current challenges and opportunities in sustainability. This includes a much more nuanced understanding of the conditions under which sustainability initiatives yield positive business and social returns. Some of the largest and most successful companies around the world are working to embed sustainability in all aspects of their organization, from operations to marketing to the supply chain and beyond. In 2008, 90% of Fortune 500 companies had some formal commitment to corporate social responsibility initiatives. As of 2014, Fortune 500 companies collectively spent more than $15 billion annually on corporate social responsibility initiatives.

Yet, despite increasing investments in sustainability and corporate responsibility initiatives, the potential impact of this investment remains under-realized by the majority of companies because sustainability is not embedded throughout the entire organization. In many cases, this occurs not because of a lack of interest in promoting sustainability, but because of a lack of understanding about how to take on this unfamiliar task.

Vision & Strategy

We created the Center for Sustainable Business (CSB) at the University of Pittsburgh to help address this critical need. The mission of the CSB is to maximize the value of investments in sustainable business strategies for all stakeholders. We accomplish this by leveraging the unique expertise and capabilities of an active research and teaching community together with the applied knowledge and industry experience of some of the world’s most influential companies.

The Center, housed at the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business and the College of Business Administration, consists of three broad programmatic areas: thought leadership, research, and education. In all three of these areas, we utilize our position as a leading academic institution to engage companies in the adoption of more sustainable business practices. We help companies and other stakeholders (individuals, government entities, non-profits, foundations, etc.) capitalize on short-, medium-, and long-term investments in the human resources, intellectual know-how, and physical and social infrastructure needed to realize a more sustainable future for our local and global communities.

The Center for Sustainable Business was launched in October of 2019, in a very different market than the one we face today. Given the seismic shifts in society over the past two years, the Center embarked on a journey to hone in on a new purpose statement and new workstreams to meet the challenges of this new era. One key trend seen over the last year are fracture lines across every aspect of the market. The pandemic showed the world that our economies are not as resilient as we need them to be. The new workstreams were designed to leverage the Center’s unique position as part of an academic institution while also responding to new issues raised by the pandemic and the growing climate crisis. 

The new purpose statement of the Center for Sustainable Business is to galvanize businesses to thrive for all stakeholders.

The first of these workstreams, Decarbonize Middle America, will focus on increasing the number of companies in the region with working strategies aligned to the Paris Accord’s 2030 Targets for a just transition to a clean and circular economy. The second workstream, Workforce 100%, aims to increase the number of companies in the region that have turned rhetoric into action with strategies to have workforces 100% representative of their communities, with decent work for all by 2030. The third and final workstream, ESG Rosetta Stone, will increase the Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) literacy of the region so that literate talent is stepping into more leadership roles in all sizes at all levels and able to collaborate across all functions by 2025.

As part of honing the Center’s priorities, we have also identified a number of work areas that will support these workstreams as part of our roadmap to 2025. These new work areas fall into several categories, including:

  • Basic Benchmarking:  Assess participating companies on their progress in decarbonization, workforce development and ESG literacy against the workstream goals.
  • Leaderboard Benchmarking:  Provide participating companies with advanced insights to help them model the way towards various workstream goals.
  • Strategy Self-Service:  Hosting a co-developed set of tools to guide small and medium businesses through setting strategies.
  • Solution Saloons:  Creating a resource group for peer-to-peer accountability in meeting 2030 targets.
  • Accelerators:  Short burst strategy support to Sustainable Business Startups via mentoring and training, with a one-year cohort accountability network.
  • Open Innovation Sourcing:  Sourcing of solution ideas to linchpin barriers.
  • CSB Corps:  Matching MBA interns trained in sustainability issues with host SMBs in the multi-state region.
  • Youth Leaderboard:  Engaging, activating, and collaborating with tomorrow’s leaders today.
  • Sustainability Generalists:  Cultivating sustainable business thinking in unmet areas.

 

The matrix below illustrates the Center’s functional (how) and thematic (what) overlap across the different 2025 Roadmap offerings:

 

 

Decarbonize Middle America

Workforce 100%

ESG Rosetta Stone

Research

Benchmarking (Basic)

Assess participating companies on progress

·        Climate baselining (Science Based Targets Initiative, Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures)

·        Remaining Planetary Boundaries baseline (Science Based Targets Network, Doughnut Economics, Sustainable Development Goals)

·        Circularity baselining (World Business Council for Sustainable Development, Ellen MacArthur Foundation)

·        Workplace baselining (Great Place To Work)

·        Best Workplaces in Pgh (Great Place To Work)

·        Stakeholder Capitalism (World Economic Forum)

Benchmarking (Leaderboard)

Provide participating companies with advanced insights to help them model the way

·        Enterprise Sustainability Culture (Capture Club)

·        Decent work across value chains (slavefreetrade)

·        Doughnut Economics (Doughnut Economics Action Lab)

Strategy Self-Service

Host a co-developed set of tools to guide Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs) through setting strategies

·        SMB science-based target setting tool

·        SMB Climate Action Planning tool

·        SMB Task Force on Climate-Related Disclosures-aligned business planning tool

·        SMB Workforce target tool

·        SMB Workforce action planning tool

·        SMB Stakeholder Capitalism disclosure tool

·        SMB Doughnut Economics planning tool

Thought Leadership

Solution Saloon

Create a resource group for peer-to-peer accountability in meeting 2030 targets

·        Annual Climate Saloon

·        Annual Circularity Saloon

·        Semi-Annual WF100 Saloon

·        Semi-Annual ESG Saloon

Accelerators

Short burst strategy support to sustainable business startups via mentoring and training

·        Dining

·        Methane

·        Well Done

·        Women-Owned

·        BIPOC-Owned

·        Veteran-Owned

·        Formerly Incarcerated-Owned

·        LGBTQ+-Owned

·        Youth- and Senior-Owned

·        ESG Data

·        ESG Financial Products

Open Innovation Sourcing

Sourcing of solution ideas to linchpin barriers

·        Climathon Pittsburgh

·        Well Done Appalachia Drawdown

·        Strategy Lunch & Learn

·        One Pittsburgh Ideathon

·        Strategy Breakfast Primer

·        DEAL-athon Pittsburgh (Doughnut Economics Action Lab)

·        Strategy Fireside Discussions

 

Education

CSB Corps

Match MBA interns trained in sustainability issues with host Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs) in the multi-state region

·        SMB Climate Corps

·        SMB Circularity Corps

·        SMB WF Corps

·        SMB ESG Corps

Youth Leadership

Engaging, activating, and collaborating with tomorrow’s leaders today

·        Gamifying behaviors to drive market shifts (School- and Member Company-based Teams)

·        Mentor Matching

·        K12 Certificate in Sustainable Business

Sustainability Generalists

Cultivating sustainable business thinking in unmet areas

·        Mfg4Good Association

·        WF100 Public Campaign

·        ESG Association

·        Pitt Professional Certificates Sustainable Business

·        Pitt Graduate Certificate in Sustainability

·        Katz MBA Certificate in Sustainable Business

 

 

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