A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico
May 10, 2007 Volume 37 / Number 7

Tracy McDonald
Tracy McDonald

Efforts Towards Sustainability

A Focus on the College of Business

by Tracy McDonald

Since the United States is the biggest contributor to CO2 emissions worldwide, it is critical that future business leaders understand the magnitude of the problem to become agents of change in organizations. Towards this end, a small group of California State University, Chico College of Business faculty is working to educate students regarding the role business plays in contributing to climate change and actions business leaders can take in reducing their carbon footprint.

We are now offering a new 18-unit Minor in Managing for Sustainability that I developed with valuable contributions and support from Professors Kathryn Lewis and Julie Indvik. The interdisciplinary minor, open to all majors, combines business courses with sustainability-focused course work in areas such as environmental studies, recreation, economics, and sociology.

In the capstone course, student teams develop sustainability audit instruments to assess sustainable practices of departments on campus. Students identify barriers to sustainable behaviors and prepare a report with suggested changes towards becoming more sustainable. Students have audited the three departments in the College of Business, the Business Advising Office, the Business Resource Center, and two classrooms in Glenn Hall. One group is working with Dean Debra Barger in Continuing Education. We are considering offering a “Seal of Recognition for Continuous Improvement in Sustainability” to those departments that are dedicated to gradually changing their practices.

The minor enhances the learning experience for students who want sustainability-related careers because, regardless of major, as our graduates move up in their profession, they will eventually need management skills. For business majors, sustainable practice is the cutting edge as small and large organizations are moving towards leaving a smaller footprint on the planet. Based on research I conducted last summer, CSU, Chico is the only Talloires Declaration signatory of more than 300 in the country to offer a program in sustainable business at the undergraduate level.

The Chico Sustainable Business Network is another venture being developed by our college. I am connecting with local businesses that hold sustainability as a core value. The vision is for businesses to form mutually beneficial relationships with each other and with the University. We, at the University, can learn from these business pioneers about their experiences in running an environmentally responsible business. Businesses can benefit from university expertise in sustainability and the pool of students eager for hands-on experience in the form of internships. Enthusiasm from local businesses has been great.

In another area, Professor Dan Toy, Marketing, has been working with Lantis Professor Greg Kallio, Engineering, and Professor Steve Dennis, Recreation, on designing guidelines for zero-energy homes. A goal for their work is to conduct cost/benefit analyses allowing the local building industry to compare values of various green technologies. Part of their work was supported by the Bidwell Environmental Institute.

Additionally, with the help of several contributing CSU, Chico professors and other CSU faculty, I am editing the fourth of a series of chancellor-funded monographs titled “Social Responsibility and Sustainability: Multidisciplinary Perspectives through Service Learning.” Because of the number of CSU, Chico contributors, the monograph will have a special focus on our university.

Finally, a small group of business faculty is meeting to explore ways in which we can enrich our curriculum in the area of sustainability. We hope to eventually develop sustainability-related courses in areas other than management. Interest is mounting.

On a personal note, in the 23 years that I have served this university, I have never worked with such deeply committed students, faculty, and staff. My students have exceeded all my expectations, and I feel that I will leave this university having made a valuable contribution. What a joyful experience near the end of one’s career! I could not have achieved what I have in this area without the very generous support of former Provost McNall. Additionally, the wisdom and support of Professors Pushnik, Stemen, and Price have been crucial as has the talent of Jennifer Rotnem, Jillian Buckholz, and Amy Miller.

—Tracy McDonald is a professor of management at CSU, Chico. She would love to hear from anyone interested in the sustainability-related activities in the College of Business. You can contact her at tmcdonald@csuchico.edu or x5773.