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Scheller College’s Sustainable Business Practicums Bridge MBA and Undergraduate Programs

Scheller College’s Sustainable Business Practicums Bridge MBA and Undergraduate Programs

As part of the Scheller College of Business Fall 2017 MBA Sustainable Business Practicum, the US Green Building Council (USGBC) worked with a student team on building out the business case for Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification in the Southeast United States.  FSC sets standards for responsible forest management and is a voluntary program that aims to use the power of the marketplace to protect forests for future generations.  Team members  Sylvester Ashok (Spring 2018 MBA), Laura Nuta (Spring 2018 MBA), Arianna Robinson (Fall 2018 MBA), and Paul Skelton (Fall 2018 MBA) were taught by Michael Oxman of the Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainable Business and Bob Lax of Accenture with Shelby Buso, as the sponsor at USGBC.

The MBA team set out to identify barriers to FSC uptake in the region with a primary focus on the saw-timber industry. In building their argument, the student team had to consider the long-term economic value of FSC certification, competing certifications, and environmental impacts. The students conducted interviews with forest landowners and experts in LEED/green building certification and surveyed stakeholders in the saw timber supply chain. Based on their research, the team provided a range of recommendations to USGBC to help stimulate market demand, offset costs for smaller forests, and differentiate FSC from other certifications.

MBA team member Arianna Robinson calls the practicum "one of the best experiences" of the MBA Program.  She says, "I valued the opportunity to immerse myself in a real, thorny challenge related to sustainability.  Consulting taught me the value of asking the right questions of clients in order to deliver the right solution."

The MBA team's work was so well received by USGBC that the project transitioned to the Spring 2018 Undergraduate Sustainable Business Practicum with FSC as the client.  During the current semester, a team of undergraduate students is taking a deeper look at how FSC might consider improving and communicating its benefits, particularly among smaller forest owners. The undergraduate team consists of Matthew Lemay (BSBA 2018), Meera Rajagopalan (BSBA 2020), Alexandra Rieger (BSBA 2019), and John Riordan (BSBA 2018).  The undergraduate students are developing recommendations for FSC focused on enhancing awareness of FSC among forest owners and on improving the benefit to cost ratio of obtaining FSC certification.

"As an independent nonprofit organization with limited resources yet huge objectives, FSC US has been fortunate to tap into the energy, creativity, and expertise of the Scheller College of Business students," notes Chris McLaren, Chief Marketing Officer, FSC US.  "We anticipate their research to be of great help in promoting FSC awareness and in expanding responsible forest management practices in the U.S. Southeast."
The FSC provided students with a variety of research about the value proposition of FSC to forest owners; access to FSC President and the project's executive sponsor, Corey Brinkema; contacts at companies using or requiring FSC certification; as well as industry experts at FSC International and its environmental NGOs partners including Rainforest Alliance, World Wildlife Fund, and others.

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