Description/achievement of initiative
The Erb Institute is the University of Michigan’s business-sustainability partnership between the Ross School of Business and the School for Environment and Sustainability. The institute’s mission is to create a socially and environmentally sustainable world through the power of business. The institute is amplifying its impact by supporting innovative research, teaching and business engagement initiatives. The institute will expand our executive education offerings to reach new audiences; grow our education platform by delivering business sustainability content to new student populations; and deliver business sustainability research that is accessible and useful.
The Erb Institute’s mission is to create a socially and environmentally sustainable world through the power of business. We do this through research, teaching and business engagement—all focused on preparing and supporting bold business leaders who can adeptly transform companies, industries and entire economies for systemic sustainability. The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a unifying framework for our work and dialogue across all three platforms.
Teaching: The Erb Institute was founded over 20 years ago as a dual-degree program in which graduate students receive both a Master of Business Administration and Master of Science degree. The curricular requirements of both degrees are complemented by a number of co-curricular learning opportunities, designed and delivered by the Erb Institute, that prepare students to advance the SDGs as business leaders. Going forward, the institute is expanding its reach to provide business sustainability learning opportunities and training to undergraduate students as well.
Research: On the research side, the Erb institute develops and delivers scholarly and applied research on business sustainability. In addition to four core faculty, the institute hosts post-doctoral research scholars; partners with faculty from SEAS and the Ross Business School as well as from other schools and units within the University of Michigan; and collaborates with academics from other institutions.
Business engagement: The Erb Institute has grown from its teaching and research origins 20 years ago to add business engagement to its portfolio. The Erb Institute engages with business, industry-association, and nonprofit partners to turn ideas into impact through on-the-ground projects with companies, social enterprises and nonprofits committed to business sustainability. Additionally, through our “Conversations with Consequences” series, the Erb Institute regularly convenes thought leaders from academia and business to explore pressing sustainability challenges. These convenings connect business and nonprofit leaders with the institute’s faculty, students and partners and are an opportunity for the type of open dialogue that builds consensus and provides momentum for sustainable action . Further, our innovative business-sustainability executive education programming trains participants in key sustainability approaches -- such as stakeholder engagement, sustainability strategy and triple-bottom-line decision-making -- to deliver ready-to-use sustainability tools directly into the hands of company leaders.
Arrangements for Capacity-Building and Technology Transfer
The Erb Institute leverages our cutting edge research and thought leadership as a mechanism for building sustainability leadership talent and capacity. All three platforms - research, teaching and business engagement - connect multiple stakeholder groups, including undergraduate and graduate students, academic and industry thought leaders, and sustainability practitioners, with the goal of driving sustainability action.
The institute has also established itself as a recognized leader in helping top business school programs and businesses navigate sustainability challenges through its teaching case studies for almost a decade. Since 2008, over 70 titles have been published, with an estimated 43,000 copies in use worldwide.
Supporting our teaching and engagement, Erb’s signature Sustainability-Management Toolboxes are step-by-step guides to help companies jumpstart design and application of core sustainability management concepts and frameworks. Our growing set of toolboxes provide examples of what sustainability success looks like at the company level, and are “go to” resources to dig deeper into a topic when necessary.
Coordination mechanisms/governance structure
The Erb Institute is a partnership between the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and the School for Environment and Sustainability and operates under the direction of it’s faculty director Dr. Joseph Arvai. The institute has a dedicated staff of seven, including a managing director, research and thought leadership manager, student and alumni affairs manager, and marketing and communications manager.
The Erb Institute has two key advisory boards. Comprised of senior business sustainability leaders, our Strategic Advisory Council (SAC) actively contributes to shaping the strategic directions of the institute by providing input to the faculty director. The SAC advises the institute on sustainability trends that are likely to impact global markets and the broader society, and their significant experience and invaluable insight guide our research and engagement. The institute’s External Advisory Board (EAB) advises—but also connects more closely with—students to be a sounding board on internships and projects, as well as a network for career advice. With more than 30 members, this board comprises leading business sustainability professionals and Erb alumni with hands-on experience across a broad array of companies.
The institute partners with other U-M sustainability centers, such as Planet Blue, the Graham Institute and the Energy Institute, in support of on-campus sustainability initiatives. These efforts include the training of campus sustainability “ambassadors”, waste prevention measures, community engagement and a global CO2 initiative. The University of Michigan recently announced its intent to pursue a path to carbon neutrality; the Erb Institute is committed to supporting this endeavor.
The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business
The University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability