Every year, my students studying the link between business strategy and environmental sustainability build wikis or mini web sites exploring topics they choose in groups. I find the choice of topics interesting in itself just like in my other second year course on geo-politics. This year the students built a total of seven wikis.
One group built a wiki dealing with the evolution of wind energy as it comes into mainstream use in Europe and Asia. One of the key issues was how many of the best on shore locations for wind are already taken and the business is increasingly moving off shore. The challenge for the industry is that although prices have fallen for the technology itself, the price of long term power contracts has also fallen and offshore has significantly higher construction and operating costs.
- Energy Waste
Another group looked at all of the major parts of the global energy mix and went into detail on what the waste streams from each of them were including carbon dioxide and other air pollutants as well as ash and other waste streams. Coal, despite technological advances, was the most problematic of the major sources of energy.
- Fine particulates in Asia
A group of Asian students looked at air pollution in the great cities of Asia and specifically looked at fine dust and the health problems it is creating. One of the key issues in the region is the degree to which such pollution crosses borders, for example, from China to South Korea, and has become an international issue.
This group looked at different applications of space technology to solve ecological problems on earth. The project looked at beaming electricity directly from space, better understanding of what is happening via satellites, and the fascinating idea of measuring the achievement of the UN’s sustainability goals using direct measurement from Space.
- Plastic Packaging
What struck me most about this group which looked in detail at the issue of packaging is that they took a relatively balanced view highlighting the advantages of plastic packaging as well as the ecological problems that it has created. What I also saw in this wiki was an expression of the move away from single use plastics we are seeing in the developed world and toward more sustainability re-usable solutions.
- Food Waste
it seems that there is a group working on this topic every year and I learning something from each one of them. What this group did in a very compelling way was show how the ordinary tomato goes from farm to fork and what the losses and problems can be. Much of the food we produces is lost in the supply chain and after distribution and the group did a careful, step by step analysis showing what could be done.
- Social Entrepreneurship
The last wiki in this year’s class looked at the role that social entrepreneurs can play in both environmental and social sustainability. The group also produced a guide on how to become a social entrepreneur.
What these project show is the interests of this year’s MBA students which touch on some of the hottest topics in sustainability.