top of page

We believe...Sustainability is built on fundamentals

With our social media team, we at the Center for the Business of Sustainability have been sharing our core values. (Scroll down to the bottom of this post to see the complete list of values)

Follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter (@smealsustain) so we can hear your perspective on these values. We feel very strongly about them and would love to hear your thoughts, critiques, ideas, and perspectives.

My thoughts on what it means to be "built on fundamentals"?

First, sustainability is the new standard that old fundamentals must reach. As always and forever, the business must be profitable, delight the customer, and efficiently manage resources—but that’s not enough anymore. The business must be ecologically intelligent and socially innovative. That’s the new standard.

Second, sustainability also introduces a new set of fundamentals: novel skills and knowledge that are the new building blocks of any successful business. Skills like identifying a business’ social and environmental impact are now just an expectation for any business student or professional.

I often tell business students, if you can’t read financial statements, you will have a hard time making a difference. What I mean is their passion must be tempered and disciplined by a set of core skills. It doesn't need to be financial like interpreting financial statements, but I use that as an example to, hopefully, awaken them to the reality that passion is not enough. You must have skills, you must master the fundamentals of whatever field or industry you choose to lead, serve and change.

The fundamentals are the bedrock of sustainability but in themselves are insufficient. We need a new set of "fundamentals" to construct a healthy, prosperous future.

But I also say that you also must read traditional financial statements and see how they leave out the true social and environmental cost of doing business. This comment illustrates the skillful merging of the old and the new. The art of combining "old school" fundamentals with "new school" awareness of global challenges as illustrated by the 17 SDGs. This is like learning a basic riff on a guitar (Stairway to Heaven?) or basic cookie recipe or basic dance move, but then making it your own, updating it, making it relevant--to your business, industry and the very real and interlocking social and ecological challenges of the day.

Knowing the business fundamentals. Using them for good. Seeing their limitations and adding to them to create a better future. That is what is meant by “sustainability is built on fundamentals.”

Finally, we do a lot of work with outside clients, large multinational companies to local entrepreneurs. When outside clients (like local social enterprises, Good Day Cafe and Loba Mane pictured below) come to us, they expect help based on business fundamentals but enhanced with an understanding of social impact measurement, sustainability, circular economy, gender equity and more. In the past, these have not been the domain of business, but they are now. They look to the business school and hold us to this new standard that old fundamentals must help us achieve.

Center for the Business of Sustainability Core Values


Sustainability is built on fundamentals

Sustainable business strategies and practices must be built on strong business fundamentals applied in a fundamentally different way

Sustainability is achieved through diversity

Diversity and inclusion greatly enhances organizational capabilities to understand and manage their sustainability risks and opportunities

Sustainability must be in the ingredients, not just the icing

Sustainability is most effective when built in from the beginning not just as the “icing” applied at the end

Sustainability is about results not just methods

We focus on business outcomes and social impact, not on trendy means and methods

Sustainability is a team sport

Enduring solutions are inherently cross-functional, cross-disciplinary and require multi-stakeholder approaches

Great education and research requires an inclusive and nonpartisan environment

The center serves as a neutral convener of thought and advanced practices.

bottom of page