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Environmental Protection & Preservation

MIT Sloan's New Laboratory for Sustainable Business Committed to Countering Global Warming

A future marred by stronger storms, rising sea levels and a dramatic increase in global temperatures unless stronger efforts are made to reduce carbon emissions is depicted in the new report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. But with today's business models generating tremendous strain on the environment, how can free-market capitalism be reconciled with the need for more sustainable business practices?

MIT Sloan School of Management is responding with the launch of its new Laboratory for Sustainable Business (S-Lab) on February 7, 2007. S-Lab is the latest in new, experimental curricula debuting at MIT Sloan, which includes, among others, Conversations with Jack Welch and the Entrepreneurship & Innovation Certificate Program.

"As a world leader in business, engineering and science, MIT is uniquely positioned to define the risks and opportunities involved in creating sustainability-based business models for the future," says MIT Sloan Prof. Richard Locke, one of six leading professors at the business school who collaborated in the creation of the course.

S-Lab recognizes climate change as one of the most daunting challenges mankind faces in creating a sustainable society, says Locke. "A critical issue for global warming is the ways in which the risks are communicated, and the framing of the solutions, both for specific organizations and for communities," he says. "S-Lab will teach future CEOs and business leaders the challenges of implementation and how the science of sustainability can be best communicated to policymakers and citizens."

Key to addressing sustainability, says Locke, is in re-defining it. "Up until now we have considered aspects of sustainability - climate, energy, water, food, poverty, and social development - in isolation," he says. "S-Lab is developing an integrated framework to consider the system-wide dynamics of human society along with tools and methodologies for measuring and monitoring sustainability efforts and their applications."

Interactive computer-based simulations will enable students to play the role of entrepreneurs seeking to maximize their profits investing in companies that impact the environment. In the process, students will experience first hand the challenges of applying renewable resources within the framework of existing policies and business models. They will then have the opportunity to experiment with re-shaping these external factors in a manner that promotes both sustainability and the bottom line.

In another exercise, S-Lab will look at an attempt by Conoco-Phillips, Inc. to win an oil development contract in Ecuador's tropical rain forest. The students will examine what choices can minimize ecological disruption and restore the environment. Case studies, lectures, guest speakers, and hands-on experience through team internships rounds out the S-Lab curriculum.

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