Uniting diverse backgrounds and expertise, our leadership and staff share three common goals: to support and disseminate high-impact research, to empower students and practitioners, and to nurture networks of change agents for sustainability innovation and integration.
Meet the Team
Professor of the Practice in Sustainable Business
Michael joined Scheller College in 2016 as the Managing Director of the Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainable Business where he teaches business sustainability courses and oversees industry outreach, partnerships, and educational initiatives. He helps to lead a number of Center initiatives including the Drawdown Georgia Business Compact, which builds on a multi-university research initiative on carbon mitigation solutions for the state by bringing together a coalition of companies that are focused on activating these solutions and facilitating a just and sustainable transition to net zero emissions for Georgia.
Prior to joining Scheller, Michael spent over twenty-five years working at the intersection of international business, sustainability, and risk management including serving in leadership roles at Acorn International, LLC and Business for Social Responsibility (BSR). In these roles, he advised a broad range of international energy and mining companies on local content, social impact, risk management, community engagement, reporting, corporate social responsibility, and human rights initiatives.
Michael also has extensive commercial experience through his work in political risk, fiscal analysis, and strategic planning functions. Michael's career spans assignments in the U.S. and a broad range of international locations including two overseas residential assignments in Central Asia.
Michael has an MBA from Rice University, an MIA in international political economy from Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), and a B.A. from Trinity College in Russian Area Studies.
Arianna joined the Scheller College of Business as program support coordinator for the Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainable Business in 2014 and was promoted to program and operations manager in 2015. In her current role as assistant director of business operations, she executes, coordinates, and supports the Center’s strategic projects, events, and ongoing programs and initiatives. She also manages the Center’s finances, its marketing and communications strategy, and its team of graduate research and student assistants.
Prior to joining Scheller College, she worked for the central office of a national non-profit organization focused on leadership development.
Arianna received her BBA in Managerial Sciences from Georgia State University Robinson College of Business. She received her MBA (with concentrations in strategic sustainability, leadership and collaboration, and cross-cultural human resource management) from Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business.
Allison joined the Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainable Business in 2022 as a program manager for the Drawdown Georgia Business Compact. In this role, she supports the development of programs and collaborations that advance the strategic objectives of the Compact. She holds a Ph.D. in urban planning and policy from Rutgers University and continues to lecture on sustainable urban planning and sustainability management.
Prior to joining the Center, Allison completed a postdoctoral fellowship with Columbia University's Earth Institute in the Research Program on Sustainability Policy and Management. Her research focuses on strategic sustainability planning and decarbonization, resiliency, and the design of networks for collective impact. Before pursuing doctoral studies, Allison worked for the World Bank in renewable energy infrastructure and for the World Health Organization in disaster relief. She also holds M.A.s from New York University and The New School, and a B.A. from the University of Georgia.
David joined Georgia Tech in 2018 as an industry engagement manager Sr., a co-appointment for the Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainable Business at the Scheller College of Business and the Center for Serve-Learn-Sustain in the Office of Undergraduate Education. In this role, he will expand and deepen relationships with the business sector to advance strategic objectives within the university and the two centers.
Prior to joining the Centers, David spent over 23 years leading sustainability initiatives and facilitating stakeholder engagements through various professional and civic roles. He started his career as a community organizer working on environmental and public health challenges in low-income, minority, and coastal communities in Georgia and the southeast. After graduate school, he became a fellow with the Army Environmental Policy Institute, based at Georgia Tech, and later joined the research faculty in Georgia Tech's School of Public Policy, before working in management consulting for the last 14 years.
David has an MS in Urban Studies, concentrated in community planning and development, from Georgia State University, and a BA in philosophy, focused on environmental ethics, with additional studies in sociology, from the University of Georgia.
Latonya joined the Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainable Business in fall of 2022. Her role includes providing administrative support to all cohorts of the Center. Prior to joining the Center, Latonya supported the organizational behavior and operations management faculty and doctoral students at Scheller College of Business, and 10 years in the office of student life at Georgia State University Perimeter College.
Latonya received her Bachelor of Science in business management from the University of Mississippi.
Jennifer, who joined Scheller College of Business in 2016, brings over 20 years of experience in communications to the Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainable Business. She interprets high-level research for a broader audience; supports faculty, staff, and students with multimodal communications projects; and brings to life the stories behind those practitioners and academics involved in today’s most cutting-edge work in sustainable business.
Jennifer is the author of a book of poetry, White Portals (Press 53, 2018). She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Atlanta Alumni Association of Phi Beta Kappa. Jennifer was educated at Fairfield University (BA in English); St. Hilda’s College, Oxford University; The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (MFA in Writing); and the University of Connecticut (PhD in English).
Kjersti joined the Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainable Business staff in Spring 2017. Her role includes general office administration, event management and assisting in program and student engagement initiatives. Prior to joining the Center, Kjersti worked in the Institute for Leadership and Entrepreneurship at Georgia Tech and two years in the AmeriCorps VISTA program.
Kjersti received her Undergraduate Degree in Community Health Education from the University of Wisconsin- La Crosse, and her Master's in Public Administration from Georgia State University.
Ravi Subramanian is a Professor of Operations Management at the Scheller College of Business at Georgia Tech. He served as Faculty Director of Georgia Tech's interdisciplinary Denning Technology and Management Program from 2013 to 2016.
Ravi received the inaugural Paul Kleindorfer Award in Sustainability in 2012, which recognizes “scholars who have distinguished themselves through the breadth and innovativeness of their scholarly work on questions related to sustainable operations and the social and environmental impact of business.” Ravi served as a Department Editor for the Sustainable Operations Department of Production and Operations Management from 2015 to 2018 and received an inaugural Best Department Editor Award in 2018. He currently serves as Senior Editor for the Department.
Ravi has prior business experience in operations strategy, manufacturing planning, and ERP implementation. He has also collaborated on NSF Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)-funded work with UrjaNet – a Georgia Tech Advanced Technology Development Center startup offering energy information solutions.
Ravi holds a PhD in Operations and Management Science (Ross School of Business) and an MS in Industrial and Operations Engineering from the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, a Master of Management degree from the Indian Institute of Technology Mumbai (India), and a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from BITS Pilani (India).
Center Affiliated Faculty
How Does the Power Dynamic Between Referrers and Hiring Managers Affect Employees’ Support for New Hires?
Greenwashing, carbon capturing, and behavioral ethics (specifically, pro-other unethical behavior as well as unethical behavior in highly ethical organizations such as NGOs).
Growing up in Montana, Bradford Baker saw economic pressures push many farmers, including his family, to become less focused on the environment in an attempt to increase productivity. Monocrop systems proved to be detrimental not only to the environment but also to farmers’ financial resilience. Bradford says, “I witnessed the farm crisis of the ’80s, when many farms went out of business. As a kid, I didn’t have language to describe what was happening. It wasn’t until my 20s that I looked back on those experiences through a sustainability lens.”
Bradford became the first person in his family to go to college. They supported his decision because they saw how increasingly difficult it was to make a living in farming. He studied postcolonial, feminist, and critical race theory at the University of Washington (where he spent seven years thanks to his participation in a record nine study abroad programs). He learned to critique systems of power that many people take for granted. His undergraduate thesis explored how international development in Africa replicates systems of American colonialism internationally and white supremacy nationally, and thus replicates and exacerbates the very problems it aims to solve. After graduation, he went “into the belly of the beast,” working in international development, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa. Graduate school followed, where he wrote a dissertation that examined unethical behavior within highly ethical contexts, such as hospitals, charities, and churches.
"The term ‘sustainability’ is problematic. If we’re just sustaining, or maintaining the status quo, humans are going to be extinct fairly quickly. We have to move beyond sustainability to regeneration and healing."
“Good intentions don’t automatically mean you’re having a positive impact on the world,” says Bradford. He brings a healthy dose of skepticism to his work in sustainability, an area he believes is ripe for greenwashing, charlatans, and shortsightedness. For instance, in his fieldwork, BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color) farmers have shared with him that they see well-intentioned regenerative and permaculture farms re-creating extractive and colonial systems. He says, “White farmers might think, ‘I’m producing organic food. How could I be a racist?’ However, unless those farmers incorporate anti-racist principles into their lives, they will de facto replicate the white supremacist and colonial systems in which they operate.”
The many Scheller College students who are passionate about making a positive impact in their careers impress Bradford, and he is deeply committed to being a resource for these students. However, he believes it is imperative that they take a critical approach to the work of “being of service” to others and the environment. Merely “having good intentions” is not enough. As Audre Lorde wrote, “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” Put differently, we cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them. The process is the product, and our means need to be in accords with our ends. If we are trying to create a world imbued with love, justice, and peace, then our personal lives, leadership styles, businesses, and economies need to be reflective of those ideals as well.
Research and teaching areas related to sustainability:
Business model innovation for sustainable development, sustainable supply chains, and operations management challenges in emerging markets.
What was your early life like?
I was born in Nashville, Tennessee, but I grew up in Brasília, Brazil. I have an identical twin brother who is also a professor (at Harvard). I grew up in a typical middle-class Brazilian environment: lots of family love and support, long lunches in my grandparents’ house over the weekend, and soccer. I am grateful to my father (a university professor in Brasília—the apple indeed doesn’t fall far from the tree) and mother for all they have done for me and my brother.
How did you become interested in sustainability?
A key event that put me on a “sustainability path” was a summer school I did in Brazil’s National Institute for Pure and Applied Mathematics (IMPA) in Rio de Janeiro. As a broke master’s student, I shared a small house with about 15 other IMPA students. Most of them were high school students who had won medals in the Brazilian Math Olympiad for Public Schools (several of them went on to win medals in the prestigious International Math Olympiad). As part of their award, they could take courses at IMPA. I quickly learned that (1) some of these high schoolers were geniuses and better mathematicians than I would ever be and (2) most of them were from extremely underprivileged cities in Northeast Brazil. Learning about the struggles they faced and the sheer effort they put into helping their families and communities made a lasting mark on me. After that summer, I decided to pursue a Ph.D. in Operations Research, which has allowed me to apply mathematical tools to social challenges.
Sustainability is the design and management of interconnected socio-economic, technological, and ecological systems that continuously improve the human condition and ensure prosperity, peace, and justice now and in the future.
Describe your interest in sustainability as it relates to business.
Public policy and technology are important aspects of sustainable development, but they alone have been insufficient to address major global issues. A key missing piece of the “sustainability puzzle” is the design of firms’ business and operational models. Firms that creatively align business and sustainability objectives (such as Patagonia or Unilever) are able to simultaneously increase profits and achieve sustainability objectives. Hence, I decided to study how firms can use new technology and analytics to design business models where the most profitable decision is also the most sustainable.
Describe your sustainable business research.
My research involves using data, analytics, and mathematical modeling to address sustainability and efficiency issues in innovative business models. I also study operations management challenges faced by companies in emerging markets. More generally, my research investigates how organizations can use operational excellence and business model innovation to generate positive social and environmental impact while increasing profits.
Describe a challenge you face in teaching or research?
My main teaching challenge related to sustainability is to show students that they are protagonists in the construction of the world around them. I am constantly trying to design a pedagogical experience that helps students recognize that they can (and must!) become agents of change in the transformation of current unsustainable economic systems. As a Latino, I understand that assuming this role is not an easy task for students, in particular underrepresented minorities who are under pressure to find jobs and often straddled with student debt. Thus, instead of simply exposing students to sustainability and business cases and concepts, I provide students with various opportunities to reflect on their role in society and to identify and analyze sustainability problems that are meaningful to them and relevant to their expertise.
What do you enjoy about teaching Scheller College students?
I love the diversity, work ethic, energy, and passion of our students. They give me hope for our future.
How Does a Firm’s Environmental Profile Impact Its Cost of Equity and Debt Capital?
How Does Financial Misreporting Impact Borrower Reputation?
Credit risk, banking, and corporate finance.
Sudheer Chava can trace his interest in finance to a very young age. "In high school I happened to read a novel whose main character invested in the stock market," he explains. Fascinated by the concept, he began following stocks and eventually investing himself, becoming something of an amateur day trader. "I made money and lost money," he says of his early foray into the stock market. Although he majored in computer science in college, his curiosity about finance led him to an MBA program, but after a year working in industry he still wanted to know more about finance, which led him to pursue a PhD. A common question in his recent research is whether finance can be a force for good in the world. Specifically, his work looks at whether capital markets can cause companies to change behavior, particularly behavior related to sustainability. The answer, in brief, is yes. In fact he found that the markets charge a higher interest rate to more polluting companies, most likely because of the risks involved in polluting as well as the general public relations costs of being a polluter.
What we can do as a group is far better than a single discipline can produce.
A secondary stream of research in the equity market shows similar results: investors are increasingly leery of polluters. When investing, for example, TIAA-CREF considers the environmental, social, and governance aspects of companies. Through the Center, Sudheer is looking forward to pooling ideas across disciplines, across the business school, and across the university. "What we can do as a group is far better than a single discipline can produce," he says.
Is Tax Avoidance a Sustainability Issue?
Tax and sustainability, law, and ethics.
“People at first don’t understand how sustainability and tax could be related. It’s kind of like ice cream and pickles,” says Karie Davis-Nozemack, associate professor of law and ethics at the Scheller College of Business. “But the more you look at it, the more you see it’s a natural fit.”
When Karie finishes teaching a class, she often shares these parting words: “Be kind to yourself and others.” She believes the practice of looking out for one’s fellow man goes hand-in-hand with sustainability. “When we keep in mind the best interests of others, we’re all better off,” she says. This concept is at the heart of collective action problems: Even though everyone is better off when they work together, incentives often encourage people to act in their individual interest. “That’s my academic entry point to think about tax from a sustainability perspective,” Karie says.
If a firm heavily avoids or evades taxes, that means there is less money for shared resources such as schools and roads. Resources available for the regulation of capital markets also take a hit when companies game the system because the work becomes more difficult and expensive. Additionally, when larger, more complicated taxpayers take advantage of loopholes, more federal dollars must be spent on plugging them. It’s a vicious cycle: As the code and regulatory regime become more complicated to address tax avoidance, costs rise for both the regulator as well as the taxpayer.
Sustainability is inherently interdisciplinary. It tackles big, complex problems, never assuming that only the economists or marketers or scientists have the solution. All disciplines have something to add that can help us move forward.
Karie argues, “One of the best ways a business can participate fully in sustainability is to acknowledge that paying taxes is one way to ensure that it is internalizing the costs it creates in society.” For instance, if a company rolls its trucks down roads, it is using public transportation infrastructure. If it flies its cargo into an airport, it affects that region’s air quality. “Tax is one small way a company contributes back to society. From a sustainability perspective, it is ethical to pay your fair share,” she says.
In her free time, Karie enjoys spending time with her husband and two young children. She likes reading humorous fiction, drinking red wine, and attending alternative rock festivals like Lollapalooza with her kids in tow—which definitely puts her on the “cool moms” list.
Professor Davis-Nozemack's research is available at SSRN Author page: http://ssrn.com/author=1713830
Why Businesses Should Not Be Allowed to Invoke Religious Exemptions?
Lucien's research interests include international business law and ethics.
In the past few years, Apple's shiny image has taken a beating by news reports of poor working conditions in its factories in China. Perhaps most damning was a 2012 nine-part series in The New York Times examining "the challenges posed by increasingly globalized high-tech industries," in which Apple and its manufacturing supplier in China, Foxconn, served as the main subjects. Rather than pointing a wagging finger at big bad Apple, however, the series (which was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for reporting this year) outlined the vast complexities of a globalized supply chain and the resulting confusion around liability and the legal and regulatory laws that apply to multinational corporations (MNCs). This grey area is at the heart of Lucien Dhooge's research. "The biggest problem is that traditional human rights treaties apply to states," says Lucien. "Whether they apply to MNCs is still unclear." What's even less clear is who holds responsibility for factory conditions in the developing world: national governments, contractors, middlemen, or the retailers themselves?
Sustainability touches so many areas, and each of us brings our own little piece of the puzzle to this complex concept.
As the Center's resident legal scholar, Lucien will bring the legal and ethical perspective to the sustainability conversation. This includes classes he teaches in international business law, ethics, and global business ethics. He also looks forward cross-pollinating his research with others in the Center. "Sustainability touches so many areas," he says, "and each of us brings our own little piece of the puzzle to this complex concept."
Manpreet's research examines the risk of operational failures and how managerial decision making is influenced by prior experience in such failures. More specifically, his research focuses on low-frequency high-impact operational failures arising from products, people, and technology. Examples of operational failure include product recalls, process safety hazards, and operational loss events.
It sounds like a bad joke: the man who meticulously plans a two-month solo backpack trip around the world has his wallet stolen in Vatican City, is mugged in South Africa, and experiences a parachute failure while sky diving in Canada. These all-too-real tribulations happened to Manpreet, who managed to survive and learn some valuable lessons about life and business, chief among them: you may come up with a plan or scheme, but you need to be fluid in order to react to the unexpected.
Sustainability is far more than 'tree hugging', and with the right data we'll be able to show that rather than be set apart in a silo, sustainability should permeate the company.
Having worked in industry for many years, Manpreet witnessed the constraints of not following this advice. "Work was very project oriented, very functional, and because of this we had no long-term vision," he says. A search to find a different lens through which to study problems led him to academia. Now, he and fellow researcher Ravi Subramanian are working closely to gather sustainability best practices they can share with companies. Ultimately, Manpreet hopes companies will begin taking a broader view of sustainability.
Research and teaching areas related to sustainability:
Equity and justice in organizations, social innovation, and race- and gender-based trauma and healing that occurs in organizations (especially in those that are considered to be healing and sustainable in their orientations, such as nonprofits, social enterprises, and educational institutions).
Tell us about where and how you grew up.
I grew up in Freeport, Illinois. I visited my grandparents almost daily, attended church, and went to the local Boys and Girls Club, Martin Luther King Center, and YWCA. Through these connections, I developed a sense of deep curiosity about care, love, and social justice as it occurs within organizations.
When did you first become interested in sustainability?
My grandmother had a garden that yielded the tastiest tomatoes. She and others in her predominantly Black neighborhood would regularly share from their gardens. We found out, however, that the town’s leadership had been allowing the secret dumping of chemical products in that part of town. By no coincidence, many residents with gardens had been increasingly passing away from cancer.
Sustainability is a slippery slope of complacency and potentially subconsciously perpetuating the harmful practices that got us to where we are today as it pertains to creating diverse and inclusive workplaces. I appreciate my colleague Bradford Baker’s definition of sustainability as the beginning of the process of recovery and healing. I am radically hopeful about what can happen when we are clear about where we truly are in the process.
What impact did this discovery have on you?
I joined my dad and several elders in writing an editorial for a local newsletter in which we invited other community members to advocate and organize. This marked the beginning of my visceral awareness of structural inequities and the “long arc” toward justice and equity of which Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaks.
When did you become interested in sustainability as it relates to business?
To be transparent, I never really framed my research in the lens of sustainability. However, sustainability became a popular and legitimate frame that included topics like diversity, equity, and inclusion. Given that I was raised in and around nonprofit organizations and leaders who were trying to address inequities, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I am still passionate about these topics.
Describe your career path that eventually led to Georgia Tech.
I studied Spanish and international studies as an undergraduate student, and then worked for an insurance company. As a young Black woman, I encountered many racialized and gendered interactions and began to have questions I felt compelled to investigate. So, I decided to pursue a master’s degree in human resources. In college and graduate school, I studied abroad in Latin America, where I discovered that some workplace equity and justice issues that piqued my interest in the U.S. overlapped with the experiences of Afro-Latinx people. My questions were not being answered; instead, they were expanding. Realizing this, I decided to apply to doctoral programs. I graduated with my PhD in Management and Organizations from Pennsylvania State University in 2016, and started working at Georgia Tech later that year.
Basak's research interests are in supply chain management, including social and environmental reporting and sustainability, behavioral operations management, supply contracts, and the role of information in supply chains.
Basak Kalkanci describes the first year of her doctoral program at Stanford University as "a long vacation." This vacation, however, had far less to do with the California sun than the excitement and stimulation of being exposed to new knowledge surrounded by smart, educated people. "People usually talk about the difficulty of transitioning to a new country," says Basak, who is from Turkey, "but I was immersed in the constant influx of new knowledge, taking classes in statistics, economics, business, math, and engineering."
These are complex problems and all voices need to be heard.
With a cross-disciplinary focus—her PhD is in management science and engineering—she naturally gravitated to Scheller, where her main research interest is the risk/reward tradeoff of outsourcing the supply chain. More specifically, she's interested in voluntary versus mandatory disclosure of social and environmental impacts of the supply chain, a topic that affects numerous stakeholders outside of academia, including industry and regulatory bodies. Basak is hoping to build relationships with these groups, as well as researchers in business, engineering, and public policy, through her involvement with the Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainable Business. As she says—echoing the love of connecting across disciplines that she cultivated in graduate school—"these are complex problems and all voices need to be heard."
Management consulting, business performance, entrepreneurship, innovation, and sustainability topics.
If Bob Lax finds himself in a forest without a toothbrush, he’ll have no problem making one by hand. “First, you need to find just the right poplar tree with soft wood that won’t break. Then, cut off a branch with a diameter the size of a finger and use a knife to separate wood into bristles,” he says. As a child growing up in West Tennessee, Bob learned this skill from his parents who were raised during the Great Depression and wanted their children to know how to live off the land.
Our practicum participants have the amazing opportunity to work on a ‘real world’ consulting project, learn about sustainability from academic experts and seasoned professionals, and deliver value to their clients with sustainable solutions.
“I grew up with a healthy appreciation for the environment—not through a business lens but more from a personal accountability perspective,” he says.
Bob’s father had an entrepreneurial spirit and frequently changed jobs—from owning movie theaters and a restaurant franchise to forming an insurance agency and coming up with innovative investment ideas. When Bob was just a teenager, his father got him involved in client services and creating the system to do the math behind investing. Bob recalls, “In the 1970s, our guest bedroom housed a computer the size of a boardroom table!”
Through working with his father, Bob discovered a love of problem solving and learned the creativity of finding value where it didn’t exist previously.
After receiving his undergraduate degree in economics and finance from Christian Brothers University, Bob worked as a consultant for Arthur Anderson, primarily for high-tech companies. For over 30 years, he has worked for Accenture, where as managing director he focuses on helping clients align their innovation and technology agendas with their corporate business strategies.
Since Fall 2017, Bob has been co-instructor of the Sustainable Business Consulting Practicum at Scheller College of Business. “I enjoy the personal interaction of teaching—of giving back in that way,” he reflects. Prior to teaching the course, he served as a guest lecturer and coach for multiple student project teams. Though Bob always had a positive view of sustainability, he was never involved in sustainability as related to business before teaching the class. With his extensive consulting industry background, he says, “I’m able to introduce the students to what life’s like in this world.” He finds the role personally fulfilling because he knows many students are in the class to discover whether they’d like to make consulting their career.
Outside of the classroom, Bob is dedicated to Accenture’s national apprenticeship program for disadvantaged adults. He has seen the life-changing effects of mentorship and skills-based learning and is thrilled that regular positions at Accenture have been offered thus far to over 100 apprentices.
He also has a self-confessed “need for speed.” A former competitive motorcyclist (until he broke his leg), Bob still enjoys riding his BMW K1200 up into the mountains.
A father of two grown children, Bob lives in Marietta with his wife.
John’s research interests include international business strategy and management.
John McIntyre’s interest in sustainability was sparked in the 1970s when he was a teenager living in Naples, Italy, where his father was stationed with the U.S. Navy. The Mediterranean Sea at the time was heavily polluted, and port cities felt the brunt of waste products freely discharged by all manner of ships. John remembers it being difficult to swim on some of the beaches without encountering contaminants or dead shellfish.
Sustainability is a key component of ethical business across the globe. Working closely together at the international, national, and subnational levels is a necessity in reaching UN SDG targets.
Then in the summer of 1973, an epidemic of cholera—a disease often associated with the Middle Ages—broke out in Southern Italy, due largely to water intermixed with waste products. John remembers getting vaccinated against cholera at the Navy base that summer. “The epidemic underscored the need for better environmental consciousness on the part of local populations,” he says. “It made a lasting impression on me.”
Subsequently, John began to look at the role played by large enterprises both as educator and diffuser of new waste management technology and water purification systems. His dedication to addressing the critical impact of business on the environment has only increased with time. “The private sector’s role is extremely important today, especially since the United States has pulled out of the Paris Accord Agreements, which put flesh on the body of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs),” he says. He notes that equally important in reaching the targets of the UN SDGs is training students to become effective actors in private companies and NGOs.
In 1993, John founded Georgia Tech’s Center for International Business Education and Research (GT CIBER), which has been a federally funded National Resource Centre of Excellence since its inception. CIBER supports sustainability research in the context of the multinational enterprise. One example of its work is the development and implementation of internationally recognized standards of sustainability, and another is the creation of predictive models that can be used by all of the private and public actors to monitor and track the goals specified in the UN SDGs. He calls Georgia Tech “a clearinghouse and a research workhorse in the field of sustainability.”
He says, “A key component of training the next generation for global positions is making them aware of the interdependencies of all systems across nations. Enterprises that work across national boundaries are often best suited to diffuse practices that will improve and enhance sustainable development globally.”
In 2006, John founded the Multinational Enterprises and Sustainable Development (MESD) association, a not-for-profit academic organization charged with the mission to create, share, and diffuse scientific research knowledge and the best practices on strategies of multinational enterprises pertaining to sustainable development.
Though multinational enterprises have caused their share of harm to the environment due to their size and reach, they may also serve as beacons of hope for the same reasons. “These enterprises,” he says, “can be accelerators of positive change.”
The future of automotive transport and alternative energy.
As a high school student in Calhoun, Georgia, Eric Overby followed the 1988 presidential election race when acid rain was a campaign issue for George H. W. Bush and Michael Dukakis. He says, "What really compelled me to be interested in sustainability was learning about the Clean Air Act from 1990." A cap and trade system created allowances for how much sulfur dioxide power plants could emit. Plants that did not use their allowances could sell their excess allowances to other plants that had over-emitted. Eric found this emissions-reducing policy fascinating. He says, "It worked on both sides of the aisle by using conservative principles to solve what many would consider to be a liberal issue. I thought, 'Hey, this is something that actually could work in a two-party political system like we have.' And it did work."
Eric got "fired up" about sustainability from a policy perspective—primarily related to energy. He teaches these topics in "Analysis of Emerging Technologies." He says, "Any kind of new technology is greatly affected by the political and regulatory framework in which it operates. You can easily point to things like subsidies for solar panels as affecting the growth and trajectory of that technology." The class studies principles regarding how infrastructure affects new technologies, for instance, and the advantages that come with having an infrastructure set up for a certain type of technology. Eric says, "We don't have a great infrastructure set up for electric cars. We do have a great infrastructure set up for internal combustion engines, so that technology continues to be relevant (even though maybe it's not ideal) because we can't switch over the infrastructure quickly."
The class topics lend themselves well to discussions/debates. For example, students may be asked to take a position on why the electric car has been fairly slow to catch on (at least to this point). Students might have to argue that it's the fault of the federal government (for not pursuing the policy), automakers (that can make better margins by keeping us hooked up to internal combustion engines—something they know how to make), oil companies, or consumers (who prefer to go 300 miles on a single tank of gas). Eric, who has received a number of teaching awards at Georgia Tech, clearly enjoys engaging with students. He says, "I like to know and talk to students who are interested in the same things that I am. And maybe sometimes I'll spark an interest they didn't know they had—and that's great."
New alternative energy technologies interest me: ways to produce, store, and distribute electricity that aren't reliant on fossil fuels and traditional systems.
Areas of focus:
Social performance, sustainability, consulting, risk management, and international business.
"I have a vivid memory of telling people when I was in high school, 'I'm never going to go into business—ever,'" says Michael Oxman. He wanted to do something that he perceived to be "more meaningful." However, an undergraduate major in Russian Studies and master's degree in international political economy led him down an unexpected path to (you guessed it)—business. His early career trajectory took him from writing accounts of Soviet émigré scientists to working in political risk insurance for US companies investing overseas (his focus being the former Soviet Union). Later, missing the international life he had enjoyed as a study abroad student in Moscow, he moved to Kazakhstan with his wife and then six-month-old daughter to take a role with Price Waterhouse, whose principal customers were the oil and gas industry. When he moved again to Houston to work for Texaco (later Chevron), "the sustainability bug" hit. At the time, task forces were creating a process to help international business units manage "above ground risk" in regard to social, environmental, political, and commercial issues. As he moved into other positions as an advisor to energy (traditional and renewable) and mining companies, Michael focused primarily on companies' social performance in addition to risk management, strategy, local economic development, and CSR reporting. Michael's work took him to rural U.S. locations and international destinations such as Guatemala, Indonesia, Israel, Kazakhstan, Mauritania, Nigeria, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Russia, and elsewhere.
Now Managing Director of the Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainable Business, Michael teaches a sustainable business practicum that has student teams working directly with companies, spreads awareness of the Center, engages with students and affiliated faculty, and promotes industry partnerships. He says, "In my own career, I had the advantage of getting traditional industry experience first, which provided the business platform for moving into corporate sustainability." This route, he claims, gave him perspectives not only on the major environmental and social issues of our times but also on specific opportunities for business to support their own bottom line through risk mitigation, branding, employee retention, and innovation, to name a few. Michael says, "The more you understand different business functions and what motivates people in those roles, the better able you'll be to make connections."
So, what would he tell his high school self who thought a life in business could not be meaningful? "I think what I've discovered along the way is that being committed to sustainability, having business make a difference, and focusing on commercial objectives are complementary activities." He says, "This is even more true now than when I was in high school."
I've found that the more you can talk about the specific issues within the sustainability umbrella, the more traction you get with business folks—or anybody for that matter—because it starts to become tangible.
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Morvarid’s research explores collaboration between and within firms towards (i) knowledge-intensive outputs, and (ii) environmental and social good (i.e., not-for-profit activities).
A trip to Germany as a teenager exposed Morvarid to recycling—something that would eventually become what she calls "a bit of an obsession." When she grew up in Iran, recycling was not a common practice. However, when she travelled to Germany to visit her uncle who had moved there, she realized his family recycled everything. "They separated all their items in their basement, loaded them in the trunk of their car, and then had to drive somewhere to drop them off," she says. Seeing so much effort put into recycling (essentially a foreign concept to her at the time) prompted Morvarid to ask her uncle a simple question: "Why?" He answered that the German government wanted them to take care of the environment, so they did. Morvarid says, "It was the first time I realized that you can do something good without being personally rewarded for your actions. You do it because it's good for people and the environment."
Early in Morvarid's career at Scheller, her research areas focused on co-production in knowledge-intensive work processes. She often spoke with Atalay Atasu (also Center-affiliated faculty), an expert in closed-form supply chain. Morvarid and Atalay had always studied their areas of expertise independently but began to wonder, "What would happen if we combined the two?" The colleagues brainstormed ideas, and co-development in recycling supply chain appeared as a natural fit since it has "lots of opportunities for improvement." Morvarid says, hypothetically, "Suppose I design my products for better recyclability. However, the recycling facility to which my products are sent cannot recycle them in a proper way. All the effort that I put into my design is basically lost!" She believes the design of the product and the technology for processing that product are complementary, and collaboration between producers and recyclers is key.
Morvarid's work also addresses social responsibility, and she credits her "passionate" colleagues for exposing her to this topic. A recent paper studies processes in non-profits (based in Atlanta and Houston), including one that addresses domestic abuse and another that trains homeless people for sustainable jobs. Instead of trying to maximize profit and minimize cost, as one would do in a for-profit setting, she says that in this project, the object is to maximize social utility. She says, "We are coming up with recommendations on how to generate better value for society," she explains. "It's very rewarding."
With any action related to sustainability, you have to believe that you're doing it not to maximize your own benefits, but to maximize the world's benefits. Then, everything becomes more meaningful.
Karthik is interested in innovation, social impact, and the design of meaningful products and services.
Growing up Chennai, India, Karthik says his family “wasted almost nothing.” Although the household was financially secure, they bought things they needed but generally not stuff they wanted. “It’s not something we did to be sustainable or fashionable. It’s just the way of life in most resource-constrained environments,” he says.
Karthik received his BS in Mechanical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, and then pursued graduate degrees in Operations Research (MS) and Operations Management (PhD) at the University of Texas, Austin, where he focused on waste reduction solutions in engineering, product design, and innovation. Feeling “appalled and stunned” by how quickly products (especially electronics) had to be completely thrown away due to upgrades, he worked to prove that modular upgrades could be more profitable for a company.
Something I believe—and that’s been reinforced through interactions with the Georgia Tech community—is that technologists can find great solutions to some of our most perplexing sustainability-related problems.
Karthik also developed an interest in socially-useful design of products and services, which has led to several collaborations with Center-affiliated faculty. He and Morvarid Rahmani, for instance, are working on a project to provide a community nonprofit with management tools to help clients choose the right resources. Additionally, a study with Atalay Atasu aims to determine when the final configuration of a product is best determined by the end-consumer. He says, “If a product designer or provider is several notches above the recipient in terms of education and background, it’s very easy for them to think, ‘I know what’s good for you.’ We’re exploring the limits to that thinking.”
As a teacher, too, Karthik emphasizes the importance of approaching problem-solving from the point of view of the ultimate beneficiary. “People think of Georgia Tech students as being tech-savvy and deeply trained,” he says. “But on top of that, a significant number of them are sensitive to the sustainability needs and problems of our times.” He has supported several meaningful student projects, including one to help visually-impaired individuals navigate work environments in cities and another to develop a special toothbrush for developmentally-disabled children.
In his personal life, Karthik does his part to turn the tide on a “take-make-waste” culture. He recycles and composts at his 1940s Atlanta home, practices low-impact eating as vegetarian, and drives a 20-year-old car. “At some point, the car is going to die. I’m going to leave it on the side of the street and walk off. That’s the plan,” he says with a laugh.
Frank's research interests lie in the areas of strategy, innovation, and entrepreneurship.
Spending time in East Germany as a youth, Frank saw the ravages of unfettered industrialization first hand: the polluted air and poisoned rivers of his youth were the silent casualties in the march toward progress. Not surprisingly, Frank is interested in the business practices of companies that attend to the longer-term consequences of their activities. "Our old approach to accounting was basically 'profits equals revenue minus costs'," he says. "In this model, neither consumers nor companies paid the long-term costs of what a company was doing to the environment; that was added to a tab picked up later by society."
In the old model of accounting 'neither consumers nor companies paid the long-term costs of what a company was doing to the environment; that was added to a tab picked up later by society.'
Now, however, the triple-bottom-line approach, which considers social, environmental, and economic factors, is here to stay, he says, if not simply for moral reasons but because of the reality of our limited resources (thus, profits now equals revenues minus costs minus costs to society). Frank's extensive fieldwork has taken him inside companies that are actively implementing the triple-bottom-line, including Interface and Tesla. Through his award-winning case studies on these companies, he hopes to show that progress does not necessarily have to leave a ravaged environment in its wake.
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Ravi's research interests are at the intersections of operations/supply chain decisions and environmental sustainability, with recent interests in human/societal sustainability and healthcare operations.
When Ravi's mother visits from India, she does something people may find curious: after using a paper towel, she washes it, hangs it to dry, and uses it again. This simple example illustrates quite well the perspective Ravi brings to his work. In particular, he thinks a lot about consumer behavior as it relates to sustainability. "Certain things are so easy to do, it's surprising that there is debate," he says. He points to the simple act of disposing of a battery. Do you toss it in the trash or do you dispose of it in a recycling bin at a nearby store? Understanding consumer behavior is important, he explains, because it affects the larger issue of sustainability at the economy level. "Most companies' actions are driven by customer choices, such as what to buy, how long to use, and where to dispose. If we want firms to go beyond the basic measures required by regulations, we need to not only understand the kinds of company practices that help create and sustain firm value, but also to understand customer behavior," he says.
If we want firms to go beyond the basic measures required by regulations, we need to not only understand the kinds of company practices that help create and sustain firm value, but also to understand customer behavior.
For example, we need to look at transactional data to understand the prices that consumers actually pay for green products as well as their opinions of these products. Also, are there technological or business solutions to improve the economic lives of products? These kinds of questions need to be addressed from multiple perspectives, including business and technology/innovation—a combination that Ravi believes the Center is well positioned to provide. Beyond his life at Georgia Tech, Ravi is an avid music buff. He plays in a local band and still has his father's old LPs and reel-to-reels. "I guess that comes from being raised to preserve things and to repair twice before discarding anything," he jokes.
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As a young girl growing up in Turkey, Beril Toktay accepted water and air pollution as a fact of life. "It wasn't until I went abroad that I saw how much better it could be," says the professor of operations management and holder of the Brady Family Chair at Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business. This realization fueled Toktay's interest in sustainability. Today, she is internationally known as a scholar in the field of sustainable operations management, with a focus on socially responsible, environmentally friendly business practices. Toktay led the College's efforts to launch the Center on Business Strategies for Sustainability, and now serves as the Center's faculty director.
We're harnessing the collective wisdom and creativity of the class to come up with one or two good ideas that might tie into structures at Tech that help aspiring entrepreneurs.
Beyond the contributions faculty can make, she is confident that students can also bring their energy and enthusiasm to the complex issues surrounding sustainable business, particularly through entrepreneurship. To encourage this, she has introduced innovation tournaments in her MBA-level course Business Strategies for Sustainability. Students generate business model or product ideas that could have a positive environmental or social impact, and class voting and input determines and refines the best ideas. Winners go on to develop an early-stage business plan and investor pitch. "We're harnessing the collective wisdom and creativity of the class to come up with one or two good ideas that might tie into structures at Tech that help aspiring entrepreneurs," Toktay says.