Adding Value through our Corporate Sustainability Projects Course at Haas
By Professor Omar Romero-Hernandez and Bart Pannecoeck, MBA ’14 & Graduate Student Instructor
The Center for Responsible Business (CRB) has completed another successful year of developing the knowledge and skills of Berkeley-Haas MBA students. This Friday, May 9, at the Symposium on Corporate Sustainability in Practice, our MBAs will present the fruits of their learning from the past semester.
Each spring semester, the CRB offers a cornerstone course, MBA292C: Strategic CSR and Consulting Projects, taught this year by Professor Omar Romero-Hernandez. The class brought together students from Berkeley-Haas as well as from the Goldman School of Public Policy, the School of Engineering, and the College of Natural Resources, and introduced them to the complex issues of sustainability, from setting up a vision to creating triple bottom-line benefits. They then applied their learnings through consulting projects with corporate partners, which included Dow, PepsiCo, Levi’s, Kaiser Permanente, Chevron Energy Solutions, and Revolution Foods.
Through lectures, engaging business case studies, and software tools, students learned to make a case for sustainability while also tackling the challenges associated with project implementation. For example, they debated how IKEA and major companies should approach child labor issues with suppliers. In the case of Walmart, they learned how business strategy and sustainability can create joint synergies. The Herman-Miller case taught them how to balance the use of eco-efficient materials with profitability and speed of implementation.
Representatives from the business world, including Google, BSR, and alumni from sustainability consulting company Blu Skye, co-taught class sessions and coached the student teams on subjects such as problem finding and problem solving. They provided ongoing mentorship through progress reviews and sharing strategies for stakeholder engagement and insights from real world projects.
The students applied the course’s core concepts through six team projects. Consulting teams of four to five students from multiple Berkeley programs managed their projects end-to-end. From the definition of the letter of engagement, to the implementation of consulting and sustainability frameworks, to the final delivery, they learned hands-on what it is like to pitch a sustainability idea to senior executives and what it takes to execute the project.
“The MBA 292 course is an excellent way for me to work as a part of a cross-functional team to learn and actually make a difference in how corporations approach sustainable operations,” said Brian Kim, M.S. Chemical Engineering ’14. Added Armando Munoz, MBA ’15, whose team helped PepsiCo investigate how to sustainably scale their program delivering healthy meals to children in need, “I was able to experience first-hand how big corporations analyze corporate social responsibility opportunities. At PepsiCo this means delivering sustainable growth by investing in a healthier future for people and the planet.”
To find out how your company can bring corporate sustainability projects to Berkeley-Haas, please contact Professor Omar Romero-Hernandez or CRB Associate Director and Interim Co-Executive Director Christina Meinberg, or visit this page about our project courses for MBAs and undergraduates.