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Sustainability as Corporate Strategy: An Outdoorsman’s Guide

When it comes to environmental stewardship, Stephen Rosenman (’20) means business

Stephen Rosenman (far left) traveled with colleagues while at Deloitte, where he was a strategy and operations senior consultant | Rosenman was an avid alpine skier in Colorado

As a strategy and operations consultant at Deloitte, I helped clients address some of their most pressing challenges. I never imagined I would spend five years in consulting, but I was fortunate to surround myself with several inspiring mentors who had an incredible influence on my Deloitte experience.

I lived in a small mountain town west of Denver, surrounded by 13,000-foot mountains and world-class ski resorts. It was my love of the outdoors that landed me in Colorado and that became the reason I returned to business school. I plan to dedicate my career to what I am most passionate about in life: protecting the natural environment through sustainable business.

I came to Anderson to become a leader in solving climate change, using the power of businesses collectively to achieve a low-carbon future. I’m hoping to better understand how companies successfully incorporate environmental impact into their decision making and how they identify key drivers for large-scale shifts in behaviors related to carbon emissions.

A growing majority of U.S. companies are emphasizing the importance of sustainability, and UCLA Anderson is beginning to recognize this in its programming. Efforts like Impact@Anderson’s speaker series, the Net Impact chapter’s annual Impact Week and Magali Delmas’ elective course, Business and the Environment, contribute to this sense of environmental stewardship in business. UCLA also offers interdisciplinary opportunities with the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability. A number of my classmates and I see the potential, within Anderson’s core curriculum, to incorporate sustainability as a business practice much more explicitly into our learning.

In the winter quarter I took the Leaders in Sustainability capstone course for the certificate. I found it valuable to analyze current sustainability issues with students from a variety of backgrounds. Since the impacts of sustainability projects are rarely isolated to one team within a company, strong collaboration and persuasion skills are key to advancing a company’s environmental initiatives.

We put this into action recently in a core class that Charles Corbett, Fernanda Bravo, Ian Larkin and Lori Santikian collaboratively taught based on a case concerning Nike’s sustainability efforts from 1998 to 2013. Anderson first-years spent a session discussing the worth of Nike’s sustainability initiatives, debating and diving in to the interconnectedness between sustainability and traditional lean operations. We weighed the value of sustainability against the current consumer’s willingness to pay for it. While we agreed that it’s unclear how much value consumers place on companies’ implementing eco-friendly measures, we concluded that Nike’s sustainability transformation has set the foundation for a strong competitive advantage in the future.

Other companies, like Patagonia, have set examples of socially responsible and sustainable business practices. Patagonia has done so much beyond the boundaries of a typical “retailer,” from starting a VC fund that invests in environmentally responsible startups to publicly endorsing candidates who support the protection of public lands. Aspen Skiing Company has moved beyond “greening” its internal operations to using its global name recognition to lead the winter sports community in the fight against climate change. Through its partnership with Protect Our Winters, a climate-advocacy nonprofit founded by a pro snowboarder, to its #GiveAFlake campaign, the ski resort has taken a strong stance to protect the future of its business.

These are model efforts among thriving enterprises. I’d like to see UCLA Anderson and other business schools thoroughly incorporating into their curriculum the imperative for businesses to operate in sustainable fashion. As Anderson’s student VP of sustainability, I’m responsible for establishing and communicating environmentally responsible strategies and helping to ensure that administrations, facilities, centers and clubs are accountable to sustainability standards. I intend to approach this role as if I were leading these efforts within a corporation. I think we should live the same way at work as we do at home, and understand how our individual and collective actions affect the natural environment.

So, did I miss skiing 60+ days in the Rockies this winter? Definitely, but L.A. has pleasantly surprised me with great hiking, mountain biking and surfing. Anderson’s Outdoor Adventure Club leads events almost every weekend, which makes it easy to spend time with classmates outside of the classroom. You’d be hard pressed to find another business school where students will meet up for a group surf session after wrapping up winter finals.

Stephen Rosenman (’20) is the UCLA Anderson Student Association’s first VP of sustainability. In this newly created position, he’ll work with UCLA’s chief sustainability officer, Nurit Katz (’08), and the Anderson administration to define the school’s sustainability strategy. He’ll collaborate with the ASA VP of financial development to incorporate metrics and practices of environmental standards into club operations. Rosenman was drawn to Anderson because of the school’s MBA Leaders in Sustainability certification program.

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