Business and environment converge in new major track

The program’s organizers said businesses are looking for help to meet environmental standards.

by Yelena Kibasova

A new major track will allow students with a passion for the environment to head indoors and use their knowledge in a business setting.

Corporate environmental management, a new track in the environment and natural resource major, concentrates on environmental innovation and business concerns.

The major was constructed by a group of faculty members in the department of bio-based products in the College of Natural Resources.

“(We wanted) to address the special market for the interface between business, environment and society,” said Shri Ramaswamy, a professor of bio-based products who worked on the new track.

Businesses have been working to meet environmental standards for many years, he said, but with the increasing concentration on healthy environmental practices, business owners are working to exceed the standards in order to satisfy their customers.

Faculty members presented the new field to companies such as 3M.

“In talking to corporations across many different sectors, there tended to be a consistent message (that) the organizations within their company that are focusing on these issues will be growing,” said Tim Smith, professor of corporate environmental management and bio-based products, who also worked on the new curriculum.

The new major will encompass a variety of courses from the College of Natural Resources, Institute of Technology and Carlson School of Management.

“We began with the understanding that if you’re going to tackle something complex like environmental issues, then it typically will require a multidisciplinary approach,” Smith said. “So, that’s what we really tried to create.”

The idea is to combine training from these areas so students have a set of skills they can apply in any environmental situation, Ramaswamy said.

The field has been offered outside the United States in places such as Europe and Japan for quite a while, Smith said. There are several graduate programs in the United States that concentrate on the topic, but the University is the first school to offer it as a bachelor’s degree.

“There is a much more growing interest in understanding the environmental impact that business and industry has,” said Susan Stafford, dean of the College of Natural Resources, who also worked on the new track.

“The students in this major will have both a technical understanding as well as an understanding of the environmental footprint of the business that they’re engaged in,” she said.

The new track began this fall and has four students.

“This major fits those students who are interested in environment, who are interested in science and also the business world,” Ramaswamy said.

Stacey Amo joined the track as a first-year student. She switched from the policy and law track after reviewing the courses in the corporate environmental management track.

“It seems like the classes were more along what I want to do in the long run,” Amo said. “I know that I would want to work with an organization that attempts to help companies reduce their emissions, reduce their pollution or make their processes more efficient so they pollute less.”