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SUS 7300S - Sustainable Business Practices

Sustainability in the Urban Environment

SUS 7300S - Sustainable Business Practices

Spring 2018. Subject to refinement/updating.


Instructor: Morris Bocian
Schedule: Monday, 6:00-8:40pm
Location: NAC 6 – 311
3 credits; 3 hours/week


Morris Bocian
w: (973) 736-2535
m: (973) 865-3232
Office hours by appointment.


This course will be a broad-based exploration of how sustainability intersects with the contemporary business environment. Businesses increasingly recognize that their operations and products have important impacts on the sustainability of natural and human systems. A combination of market forces, consumer awareness, social networks and government attention are making businesses more intent on reducing the negative environmental impacts of their operations, supply chains and products. Companies recognize that resource depletion will impact the future of their business and some are doing something about it.

There is a burgeoning literature on CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), and business schools are increasingly exploring notions of “shared value.” Organizations such as the World Business Council for Sustainable Development argue that “sustainable development is good for business and business is good for sustainable development.” Skeptics caution that in light of the powerful need to maintain corporate image and goodwill, a superficial response to sustainability challenges—aka “greenwashing”—is always a temptation, and often done. To help students better evaluate what is or is not superficial, this course will strive to impart an objectively-grounded understanding of how sustainability and business practices come together. 3 credits 3 hrs/week.


This course enables students to gain an understanding what business practices and “sustainable business practices” are and how they can be measured and reported. It requires students to familiarize themselves with terms such as; “disruptive technology,” “Lean startups,” “Business Models,” and “Value Proposition.” Students will identify stakeholders (both within and outside an organization) so as to gain an understanding of why so many initiatives fail. Students will gain an understanding how and why ideas “stick” and why many innovations will be developed by entrepreneurs, not by today’s Fortune 500 Companies. The course contrasts business practices of large corporations with those of entrepreneurial for-profit companies. It immerses students in sustainability-oriented business strategies, and exposes them to assessment of the sustainability of business practices. It also touches upon the fundamentals of green accounting and reporting.


Students will demonstrate proficiency in understanding how to develop a green initiative in a way that identifies and addresses stakeholder concerns (internal and external). They will learn how to demonstrate the overall impact of the initiative to the customer using Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and Return on Investment (ROI) calculations. They will demonstrate familiarity with common sustainability-oriented business-strategic considerations and options. They will become versed in methods for Sustainable Business Practices, Spring 2018. Subject to refinement/updating. 4 assessing the sustainability of business practices, and able to apply these methods in new circumstances. Students will understand the basics of entrepreneurial enterprises and their impact on innovative and commercialize-able new products, the change agents for green technology.

Course Requirements

This course requires students to complete regular homework assignments and to carry out a course project. Working in small teams, students will create and present their project (business case) to the class. Each student is expected to provide written feedback to teams they are observing. Projects will entail a substantive analysis of an environmental and business issues facing “C” level business executives and governmental and non-governmental policymakers, together with a detailed exploration of the economics of proposed remedies.

Required Reading

1: Scott, Jonathan T, The Sustainable Business: Taking the first steps towards understanding, implementing and managing sustainability from a cost/profit perspective, Brussels, Belgium, EFMD. (free PDF)

2: Assessing Sustainable Development: Principles in Practice, International Institute for Sustainable Development. (free PDF)

Suggested Readings

The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail (Management of Innovation and Change) Paperback, 2016, Harvard Business School Publishing.

Eris Reis, The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses, 2011, Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, New York. (free PDF)

Jonah Berger, Contagious: Why Things Catch On. (free e-book)

Lazlo, Christopher. 2005. The Sustainable Company: How to Create Lasting Value through Social and Environmental Performance. Washington, DC: Island Press.

Five Reasons Most Companies Fail at Strategy Execution, Quy Huy, INSEAD Professor of Strategic Management, January 4, 2016. (free web article)

Cradle to Cradle, Remaking the Way We Make Things by Michael Braungart and William
McDonough (2002, Paperback)

Sustainability definition, United States Environmental Protection Agency (webpage); Sustainable Manufacturing (webpage)

Study Guide to Making Sustainability Work, Marc J. Epstein (automatic Word document download)

Sustainability Matters: Why—and how—business is widening its focus to consider the
needs of all stakeholders (free PDF)

Nike’s Sustainability Strategy (webpage)

Phillip Morris International and Sustainability (webpage)

Additional readings and case studies to be announced. Many of the homework
assignments will require students to read specific selections from the sources.


Course grades are determined entirely by observed performance, taking into account three factors: grades on the course project (70%), class participation (15%), and on homework assignments (15%).

The project grade in turn is broken up into the following components:

  Presentation Report Total
Project Section 1 7.5% 7.5% 15.0%
Project Section 2 10.0% 10.0% 20.0%
Project Final 17.5% 17.5% 35.0%
Total Project Grade 35.0% 35.0% 70.0%

Each team will be required to maintain a Project Management Log—a cumulative written record of how the project progressed during the term, as evidenced by, e.g., dated progress reports (including iterations and pivots), meeting minutes, task lists, scheduled action items, etc. The log will be submitted along with each project report.

Course Outline

Session Date Topic
1 1/29/18 Introduction - Definitions. Entrepreneur's role as change agent vs. legacy costs and barriers to disruption.
2 2/5/18 What is the Sustainable Company and the Brundtland Commission? What is the "triple bottom line" and is that an appropriate measurement? Intro to Economics of Sustainability. The Innovators Dilemma.
3 2/20/18 Sustainability is a Global issue. Solutions need scale and speed - Introduction. Cradle to Cradle design/life cycle assessment intro.
4 2/26/18 Lean Startups - Increasing their likelihood of success. Prevalance of initiative failures.
5 3/5/18 Importance of identifying and understanding stakeholders and addressing their needs.
6 3/12/18 First section of project presentation (reports due by the following 5PM Thursday)
7 3/19/18 Business Model Canvas - Pricing externalities and how failing to appropriately price them leads to wrong decisions and non-competitiveness.
8 3/26/18 The importance of Proposition - Understanding Total Costs of Ownership/ROI etc.
9 4/9/18 Why Do Ideas Become Contagious?
10 4/16/18 Second section of project presentation (reports due by the following 5PM Thursday).
11 4/23/18 Social entrepreneurism/types of entities
12 4/30/18 Green accounting/reporting/shared value
13 5/7/18 Sustainable Business/governments in action - Future of Sustainability in Business
14 5/14/18 Final project presentation (reports due by the following 5PM Thursday)