New Sustainable Business Practices Program Born at Centenary University

By Steve Sears

Centenary University of Hackettstown in the fall of 2019 will be offering new courses focusing on sustainable practices in business, which is both a concentration in the business program and a minor for other students who wish to take it.

Michael Russell, an Assistant Professor at the school and Director of Centenary’s Center for Sustainability, has a background in Economics, got his master’s degree in Natural Resource Economics, and is currently working on his Doctorate regarding curriculum concentrated on sustainability.  “It’s where I really come to this from,” he says.

“There’s a lot of excitement about the new classes. The new program will formally start in the fall (of 2019). There are a couple of students who are doing some of the courses right now as part of an independent study, but there’s been some pretty good interest both among the business students and a lot of the environmental science and biology students are interested in taking it as a minor.”

The college, Russell’s words, was “very, very” receptive to the course suggestion. “This has been about two years working this through the process. I had a lot of good conversations with the New Jersey Sustainable Business Council, and some other people I met with in the industry, because I wanted to make sure we were doing something that made sense for our students when they get to the job market when they are done (with the classes). Throughout the whole process of getting the whole program approved, getting the classes, the administration has been very supportive and encouraging.”

Russell likes to use the motto, “Waste is waste.” “If you’re a business, you’re interested in doing what you can to make and maintain a profit, and if you have wasteful practices, that’s losing money. There’s ways you can become more efficient, ways that you can turn your waste product into something you can use and save money.” Russell also states that sustainability has three components: economic, environmental (“It’s very important in the world we live in today to consider the environment”), and social. “I think we’re going to see social changes in response to climate change and biodiversity laws that everybody needs to be prepared for, and part of that ‘everybody’ is the business world.”

The course, which will be offered as online courses, will be broken down into four separate classes. Introduction to Sustainable Practices will cover the basics, such as what sustainability is, how it’s different than conservation or environmentalism; Environmental and Ecological Economics, where students will learn how to do a cost benefit analysis and look at theoretically how businesses approach sustainability; Sustainability Assessment and Reporting, where classes will look at all different types of reporting standards in different industries and businesses, and creating actual reports; and the final course, Sustainable Practices Capstone, will focus on a student designed project. “The student will find an organization that they want to work with to help them improve. It’s almost like an internship,” says Russell.

The first two classes will be offered in the fall of 2019, the latter two in the spring of 2020.

The courses are not only open to students attending the college, but to others. “If somebody wants to take theses classes, they already have a degree, they want to get a certificate in Sustainable Practices, in order to change careers, advance their career, or just interested in the topic, they can do that also from wherever they are.”

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