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M.B.A.s host Sustainability Summit

BY LUKE VOELZ | FEBRUARY 11, 2011 7:10 AM

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The Earth’s atmosphere is like a Porta-Potty on game day to Craig Just.

“No one owns it and everyone uses for it for free, so everyone trashes it,” said the University of Iowa civil and environmental engineering associate research scientist.

It’s an effect called “the tragedy of the commons,” and Just plans on discussing it at today’s Sustainability Summit in the IMU.

The UI chapter of Net Impact, an M.B.A. student organization that focuses on environmental responsibility, will host the new event.

Just will join two other speakers from business and engineering fields to discuss the role of environmental sustainability in the corporate world. He plans to focus on what he calls the “language of sustainability,” a way to discuss environmental issues across different academic disciplines.

Because business and engineering professions sometimes use complex terms, discussing sustainability can be difficult when working with other areas such as humanities.

“Some people think that technology is harming the Earth, while business and engineering groups try to embrace technology to improve life,” Just said. “What we need is a democratic discussion, but our culture likes to yell.”

Amy Myers, the associate editor of the UI Office of Sustainability, said she believes businesses worldwide are trying to become more sustainable. Many of them are implementing ways to cut down on operating costs, she said.

“These practices are on the front burner for many businesses,” she said.

Nadia Dwight, the director of M.B.A. Student Services and Net Impact adviser, said businesses are starting to see the practical use of sustainability in cutting costs during a recession.

“A lot of companies talked about sustainability as a buzz phrase to draw public interest, but now they realize the bottom line,” she said.

To meet these new demands, the UI M.B.A. program joined Net Impact in 2009. While Net Impact has worked in the Tippie College of Business since joining, the summit marks the first time its meetings have been made available to other graduate programs on campus.

The summit is not the first instance of sustainability focus at the UI. In October 2010, officials announced seven sustainability goals for the university, including decreasing waste production and reducing carbon impact of transportation.

A month later, the UI became the first university in the region to sign an agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency.

Jon Finley, a 2012 M.B.A. candidate, became president of the Iowa’s Net Impact program in January. He joined because of personal beliefs about environmental responsibility as well as an awareness of the growing role of sustainability in the business field.

“[Sustainability] is the future of business,” he said. “A business that does not work within the confines of sustainability will be obsolete within a decade.”


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