Contributing to the Sustainability Ecosystem in our Region
While our corporate sponsors are headquartered around the world, we are deeply committed to engaging with our regional community and devote specialized programming to those companies and organizations with roots in our area. Over the last few decades, our region has transformed itself by cleaning up the environment, investing in social equity initiatives, and creating a more favorable environment for equitable economic development and growth. Stand-out programs like the 2030 Districts – where building owners and managers commit to reducing energy use, water consumption, and transportation emissions by 50% before 2030 – have earned Pittsburgh international recognition as a city committed to holding itself to a higher standard. These efforts, among many others, have helped Pittsburgh earn additional funding to support its endeavors to tackle climate change, including a $2.5 million investment from Bloomberg Philanthropies as part of the Bloomberg American Cities Climate Challenge. Within this context, Pittsburgh’s Fortune 500 companies are increasing their level of commitment to more sustainable supply chains, energy and carbon reduction goals, and greenhouse gas emissions reductions.
The Center for Sustainable Business enters the field of organizations working on sustainability in our region as a collaborator offering a complementary set of opportunities to deepen engagement on sustainability for a wide range of stakeholders. As such, we intend to involve a myriad of other actors and organizations in our activities, both internal and external to the University. We want the Center to act as a partner alongside existing entities, pooling our efforts and leveraging our expertise as a hub for research and learning to facilitate deeper and more meaningful engagement with these issues across our local, regional, national, and global communities. We see this vision as entirely consistent with the work of the City and other stakeholders who have led the charge on these issues.
In 2015, the City of Pittsburgh (in partnership with The Heinz Endowments) adopted the vernacular of sustainability in its strategic planning efforts:
Cities such as Pittsburgh that are at the center of the innovation economy have the opportunity to become not just economically successful, but also inclusive and just. That belief lies at the heart of our p4 framework and the four essential values of “People, Planet, Place, & Performance.
It is no accident that this framework parallels the triple bottom line approach to sustainability of “People, Planet, & Profit.” The demand for a more stakeholder-centered approach to strategic business management means that there is an increased demand for business professionals who have the knowledge and expertise to contribute within this much broader dialogue on sustainable community practice, of which firms are a key part.
To date, organizations like the Allegheny Conference on Community Development have succeeded in attracting the participation of some of the largest companies in Pittsburgh through their mission as an umbrella organization that works to “analyze competitive issues, advocate for improvements and market the region globally to encourage business investment that creates jobs and attracts talented people to fill them.” As well, companies of various sizes engage with sustainability challenges through organizations like Sustainable Pittsburgh and their Champions for Sustainability Network.
In this context, the Center for Sustainable Business (and the Sustainable Business Forum in particular) offers a unique space where companies can come together and not only agree on shared commitments to sustainable principles, but also develop workable plans for implementing, monitoring, and evaluating those strategies over time that are tailored to their unique industries and organizational designs. At the same time, the Center differs considerably from department-specific or sectoral fora. Instead, the SBF offers a platform for learning about the multi-faceted benefits of embedding sustainability into the corporate business model itself. This also sets the SBF apart from existing entities in Pittsburgh and allows us to be a complementary force in addressing shared sustainability challenges. We bring a new perspective by leveraging the latest research in sustainable business models and engaging peer companies in shared learning and exchange of ideas.
As well, the research and teaching facilities of a renowned university add value to the investment made by member-companies in a unique way. By virtue of its primary function as a hub for knowledge generation, the university partnership creates new opportunities for collaboration on applied research in sustainability and training for graduates soon to enter (or already active within) the workforce. Companies who sponsor these efforts have the chance to impact the training of our graduates in ways that would have positive impacts for companies, sectors, regional and global economic development, social equity in access to new business opportunities, and a range of environmental outcomes following this innovation and commitment to investing in sustainability.