SOURCE: University of Michigan's Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise

University of Michigan's Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise

September 09, 2009 09:30 ET

The Erb Institute at the University of Michigan Challenges Largest-Ever Entering Class to Think Differently About Sustainability and Business

New Seminar Questions Siloed Approach to Business Strategy

ANN ARBOR, MI--(Marketwire - September 9, 2009) - Every incoming student at The Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan enrolls in the First Year Seminar, but this fall, students will be greeted with a very different syllabus, thanks to an innovative new approach by Associate Director and Max McGraw Professor of Sustainable Enterprise Thomas Gladwin.

Gladwin's course, known simply as the Erb Institute Seminar, has a bold goal: "mind-shifting for sustainable enterprising." In the class, Gladwin will guide 45 newly enrolled Erb students in re-framing their thinking on how sustainable businesses should be formed, created and run. The course includes segments focused on systemic thinking, ethical thinking and biospheric thinking and will provide each student with a personal plan for shaping their approach to sustainable business throughout their three-year MBA/MS program.

Business school curricula are still largely dominated by "siloed" thinking that reflects a scientific approach to business strategy and business education that was first made popular in the 1950s. With this seminar, The Erb Institute signals a radical shift in thinking for companies adopting sustainability strategies and initiatives: rather than silos, companies must approach sustainability systemically, involving decision making at all levels and from all areas within an organization.

"Old modes of thinking simply won't work for sustainable business," noted Professor Gladwin. "Through this seminar and other courses offered at Erb, our students have the opportunity to explore new ways of doing business, designing systems and integrating disciplines so that they emerge as leaders, advocates and change agents for sustainability, both in traditional fields and in emerging sectors of this dynamic market."

With 110 students enrolled for the coming academic year, up from 82 for 2008-2009, the Institute is welcoming its largest group of new and returning students this fall. Each of the new first-year students will enroll in The Erb Seminar with Gladwin, while both new and returning students will choose from new course offerings within the Ross School of Business and the School of Natural Resources and Environment. Among the course offerings are:

--  Strategies for Sustainable Development: Competitive Environmental
    Strategy (taught by Holcim (U.S.) Professor of Sustainable Enterprise
    Andrew Hoffman)
--  Energy Markets and Energy Politics (led by Erb Institute Director and
    Dow Chemical Professor of Sustainable Science, Technology and Commerce
    Thomas P. Lyon)
--  Systems Thinking for Sustainable Development and Enterprise (taught by
    Professor Gladwin)

In addition, courses to be taught by Erb Institute affiliate faculty from the Ross School and School of Natural Resources and Environment include:

--  Solving Societal Problems Through Enterprise and Innovation
--  Business Strategies for the Base of the Pyramid
--  CleanTech Venture Opportunities
--  Finance and the Sustainable Enterprise
--  Social Entrepreneurship: Business Tools for Enhanced Social Impact
--  Social Marketing

"Our thought-provoking and innovative curriculum gives our students a chance to challenge assumptions about how sustainable business should be done," said Erb Institute Managing Director Rick Bunch. "With the guidance of our outstanding faculty, we aim to give students the tools to serve as agents for change in this field, whether they go on to join major corporations, advise government and NGO groups or start-up new companies."

About the Frederick A. and Barbara M. Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise

Created in 1996, the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise is a 50-50 partnership between the School of Natural Resources and Environment and the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. The Institute fosters professional education, public outreach and scientific scholarship supportive of the transition to sustainability -- that is, meeting the fundamental needs of a growing human population in an equitable manner within the means of nature. Utilizing a collaborative approach, the Institute helps business, government and civil society organizations to achieve meaningful progress toward sustainability. Its mission is be a premier source of knowledge and leadership for the achievement of environmentally, economically and socially sustainable development and enterprise. For more information, visit

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