Voices in Sustainable Enterprise: A New Generation of Innovators  

Ecology Prime is pleased to share the exceptional work and unique perspective of five bright minds from the Whitman School of Management, Syracuse University, Sustainable Enterprise course, of Fall 2021. Individually, the points of view shared by these independent thinkers, are timely and unique. Collectively, these voices beckon to a broader generational shift that has been underway, and which is becoming more inclusive, diverse, and focused on a shared pursuit of a more sustainable future.

Mark Coleman, adjunct instructor of Sustainable Enterprise and an award-winning author of three books on sustainability, introduced a class of 29 students to Sustainable Enterprise. The course’s content, purpose, and learning objectives are focused on providing the tools, methods, and understanding of how systemic changes influence business and entrepreneurs and consequentially, how business and entrepreneurs address the needs of society and create new paradigms through sustainable value. The course is part of a broader curriculum which prepares students to engage in transdisciplinary collaboration to develop sustainable solutions to complex organizational challenges. The essays and video presented here over the next weeks were submitted as the Sustainable Enterprise course’s final projects.

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Social Entrepreneurship and Sustainable Venturing

By Nathan Hirschberg

Photo composite using multiple images from Pexels.com by Daria Shevtsova and Lukas

Over the past several decades, our society has become increasingly aware of the importance of maintaining a healthy, stable, and clean environment. Our environment is directly related to everything that occurs throughout our daily lives. Decades ago, businesses may have had the belief that they should be as efficient as possible – in terms of production and performance – regardless of their environmental impact. We are now seeing and understanding the effects companies and societies can have on the environment, which is leading to positive changes in mindset, policies, and company missions.

This world we live in has given us everything we need to survive. It is home to all living beings (which is why it is foolish to degrade it). It is extremely important to take care of this gift. This is why sustainable enterprise should (and hopefully will) be the future of business.

The ideal future of sustainable business is one where every company has the core mission to help the environment (or at least not hurt it). Every company should be aware of these issues, while consciously making efforts to reduce their footprint.

With an increasing environmentally conscious society, there is the obstacle of changing systems, thinking, behavior, and company structures. When looking at which industries create the most pollution, we see the leaders being energy, transportation, and agriculture. These are the areas we should focus on. We should continue the trend towards clean energy. This means ramping up the production and use of wind turbines, solar panels, electric cars, etc.

When it comes to significant change – in this case altering people’s lifestyles as well as business operations – there are a few factors that help or hinder the process. The major factors are time, legislation, and the individual. In the case of creating a cleaner environment, time is of the essence. We have seen the destructions humanity has done so far, and it is clear we are in dire straits. More time does allow for people to open their mindset; however, it leaves more opportunity and time for the environment to be harmed.

The main factors we must consider are legislation and the individual. To start off, it is difficult to make these changes without legislative action. Legislative action, however, always creates more issues and friction in the social and economic worlds. There is always the fair question as to how much should the government play a role in businesses or individual’s lives. It is understandable that many companies want little to no government action due to the fact that they may not be able to support themselves by changing their policies, structures, prices, or business models. I do not know the answer when, for example, there is a concrete company that creates massive pollution, and the government tells them they must switch to green concrete and reduce their waste when they can’t afford it. Maybe the government should provide subsidiaries or other forms of capital (which I’m sure it already does) to companies who are switching.

There are laws that are being slowly constructed that, as an example, aim to eliminate gas cars and replace them with electric ones. This change sounds phenomenal; however, it is very difficult for individuals to buy these expensive cars – especially if a family owns cheap, used cars. Legislation is a strong way to make change fast, but it comes with a cost. That cost could be in the form of friction between people and companies, financial issues within certain groups of people, or debt for the country. There are obvious environmental benefits with legislation which do not need much explanation.

The last major factor when it comes to moving the world to a more sustainable place is the responsibility, mindset, and attitude of the individual. Firstly, we must educate our society on the importance and need for positive change in sustainable business. There are still many people within our society that either do not believe environmental protection is of any importance or do not understand the severity of our global impact. This is where education comes into play. This attitude only slows down any potential progress. Aside from education, there are many people who simply do not believe it matters much. It is hard to change those people’s minds. I do not know the answer to that except hopefully people will care more about the Earth as we teach ourselves why we should.

Responsibility takes another significant role in positive change. It is up to the individual where he or she purchases his products. Again, this is very difficult because typically the cheaper products are the ones that create more environmental harm. When people have the opportunity, they must choose to support companies that make sustainability a key ingredient in what they provide. I know I don’t always do a great job at this. Often times, I purchase items that do not support (or the company does not do a good job of supporting) sustainability. Everyone must do what he can to support the businesses that make the effort to be sustainable.

In terms of the ideal enterprise, as mentioned before, sustainability should be at the forefront. I believe these businesses will succeed. The key competitive advantage sustainable companies have is that they use renewable energy…Renewable!! Renewable energy is a smart and profitable solution. Yes, there may be high start-up or fixed costs (due to purchasing machinery or switching company structure), but the renewable aspect makes companies save large amounts of money in the long run. As an example, electric cars are a great investment because it costs almost nothing to maintain them once the battery and car are bought! Gas cars, on the other hand, require tens of thousands of dollars spent on fuel, depending on how long one owns the vehicle. This is the same when it comes to fixed costs for a company. Renewable resources provide long-term profitable solutions.

The future of sustainable enterprise is one where nature is thriving, no one needs to wear masks due to pollution, and almost every company makes a strong effort to contribute to cleaning the world. My lens of the world has not changed much, in terms of caring for the environment, throughout the course of this class. I have always placed a strong emphasis on caring for the Earth. I will say I have more faith in humanity and society after taking this class. Before the course, I thought too many businesses were solely in it for the money (as opposed to helping others/the environment), but we have seen several companies that have proved me wrong. Many of these companies – and the entrepreneurs that lead them – live every day to help the world. This has strengthened my positive view on the world and business.

Overall, the future of sustainable enterprise relies on several factors such as time, legislation, and the individual. I know we will continue to see our society move towards a cleaner, caring, healthy, and more sustainable environment.

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Nathan Hirschberg

My name is Nathan Hirschberg. I am an Entrepreneurship major. I love classic rock music and buying/selling vintage comic books.