UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

Shaping Leaders, Driving Results

UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

MBA Sustainable Enterprise Concentration


Sustainable enterprise is a way of doing business that makes profits through means that reduce harm to society and the environment. It turns challenges into business opportunities that serve a triple bottom line of profits, society and the environment. The result is often unique market solutions that leapfrog the competition or help firms to enter new markets with products better suited to long term growth.

This concentration applies across functional areas and industries. It complements other career concentrations taken at the same time. Students taking it will learn how to craft strategies that help companies pursue a triple bottom line, a skill that more and more companies say they seek.

Students may take courses outside the business school in areas such as:

  • public policy
  • international studies
  • social work
  • city and regional planning,and
  • environmental studies


Concentration Requirements

Sustainable Enterprise Electives (7.5 credits needed)

  • MBA 713, Sustainable Operations Vinayak Deshpande
    1.5 credits

    In this course, students explore the link between Sustainability and the Operations function of a firm. In particular, the focus will be on the following activities encompassing the Operations function of a firm:

    1. Product and Process design
    2. Manufacturing
    3. Transportation, Logistics and Distribution
    4. Closed-loop/ After-sales operations such as recycling, remanufacturing and reuse, and
    5. Supply Chain Management
  • MBA 790B, The Energy Value Chain Steve Arbogast
    Energy (Elective) Energy Value Chain provides an overview of the energy business in all segments, from oil/gas exploration and production through the midstream and refining to electric power and renewables. The course covers basic technical literacy for each segment. It then examines core business models and challenges. Thus students are introduced to dry hole and depletion risks in Exploration/Production, the role of thruput contracts in the Midstream, the upgrading of low value products in refining and the nature of regulatory regimes in the power/renewables sectors.
  • MBA 803G, Gender and the Workplace Elizabeth Dickinson
    Gender remains a complex and widely-discussed topic in professional and workplace settings. Specifically, research points to a continued shortage of females in leadership and top management positions, and gaps in pay, hiring, equality, and professional development persist. Research also shows that recruiting, developing, and keeping diverse gender groups as employees, leaders, and top managers can be beneficial to individuals and organizations. From personal, organizational, leadership, and management perspectives, in this course, students will discuss and analyze various gender topics in the workplace. Students will think critically about gender in order to become more sophisticated leaders and help organizations address the effects of gender-related topics on personal, interpersonal, and organizational effectiveness. This class includes all people in conversations about gender. The class strives to assist all individuals in understanding the importance of recruiting and retaining diverse gender populations as well as changing definitions of leadership. Specific topics include gender and gender socialization; the history of gendered groups at work; workplace legislation; workplace gender facts (myths, perceptions, and stereotypes); gendered communication; recruiting, supporting, and retaining diverse leaders; communication, emotional intelligence, and leadership skills; dysfunctional politics and practices; work-life balance and politics; and functional policies and initiatives.
  • MBA 824, Managing Workplace Diversity Jim Johnson
    1.5 credits
    The course is designed to improve your awareness of the importance of effectively managing workplace diversity not only as a social or moral goal, but also as a sound business practice—enlightened self-interest. Toward this end, the goals are to (1) increase your appreciation of your own cultural values; (2) heighten your sensitivity to the unique characteristics of other groups; and (3) thereby enhance your ability to manage people of diverse backgrounds.

    The course is organized into three parts:

    Part I focuses on why it is important for business leaders/managers to effectively manage diversity. Here we will assess the business and workplace implications of recent changes in both the composition of the U.S. labor supply and the structure of the U.S. economy. Emphasis will be placed on the impacts of these changes on different segments of the U.S. population.

    Part II examines the nexus of workplace diversity issues about which business leaders/managers need to be concerned. Considerable attention will be devoted to the types of barriers or obstacles that confront minorities, women, and other traditionally underrepresented groups in their efforts to move into the upper levels of management in organizations.

    Part III focuses on how to do diversity work. The emphasis here will be on the range of guidelines and strategies that business leaders/managers can use to manage workplace diversity. Attention will also be devoted to some of the potential pitfalls of diversity training.

  • MBA 831B, Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Developing Economies Lisa Jones
    Sustainable Enterprise (Elective)


    This course will help you create value in situations where other people walk away. In this course, we explore how innovation and entrepreneurship (e.g. opportunity identification, evaluation, and exploitation) create individual and social wealth in developing country settings—while often simultaneously addressing major social problems. This course is about identifying opportunities and constraints that typify this context so that you can support or establish ventures that succeed in similar conditions—or lead and fund people who do so. It is also about using the power of business to fight poverty and other social problems. While many themes will surface, my objective is to help you learn more about business model variations and unique partnerships and how both play a critical role in venture success. Secondarily, we will discuss funding mechanisms.

    Who Should Enroll?

    This course is designed for those who want to understand how to create social and financial value at home and abroad. It applies to those who want to start or fund new ventures as well as for those who want to work in established firms. The bulk of our cases feature developing country settings, but the lessons apply to domestic ventures too. The operating premise is that the lessons from this setting will help entrepreneurs and managers better understand and catalyze new ventures in a variety of settings. This course is particularly suited to those who: • Want to balance the capture of economic returns with the creation of social wealth • Look beyond traditional business opportunities to generate new ideas • Want to know more about social ventures, “social innovation,” and social value.

    Course Purpose

    We live in turbulent times that call for innovation and entrepreneurship at home and abroad. In our globalized and interconnected world, there is a pressing need to innovate to address poverty, hunger, water shortages, the call for clean energy and fuels, and other goals related to sustainable development. Now more than ever, there is also a need for entrepreneurial action to create new products, services, and jobs. These conditions create worldwide business development opportunities for individuals and firms. While those of us who live in developed countries are more recently suffering from major resource constraints, those who live and work in developing countries have long been innovating in such environments. Further, some forward-looking organizations from around the world have already realized that there are business opportunities in developing countries—whether management perceives individuals in those countries as consumers, producers, or employees. This course is an exploration of the lessons learned by different types of firms as they succeed and fail in developing countries/at the “base of the pyramid.” We look at non-profit, for-profit, and hybrid organizations that innovate to address issues from air quality to air package delivery—and many things in between. The common thread in all of our planned case discussions is the developing country context, and the fact that we will look at each case and ask: What is innovative? Where is the entrepreneurial opportunity? How much value is created and who appropriates that value?

  • MBA 831C, Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Olga Hawn
    1.5 credits
    This course will look at how business leaders can create sustainable competitive advantage by integrating and aligning corporate social responsibility inside organizations with:
    • core business objectives & core competencies
    • mainstream business functions such as sales, marketing, operations & strategy
    • branding and reputation
    • reporting, communications and messaging
    • expected financial impact
    • expected social/ environmental impact
    • and address trends in global CSR
    Students will develop intellectual frameworks for:
    • current-case best practices of CSR, across sectors
    • the broad and varied concepts in this field
    • the business drivers for CSR
    • positioning CSR as a competitive advantage
    • creative thinking about relevant CSR strategy for a given organization
    • assessing their own company’s level of strategic CSR
    • developing integrated CSR within their own industries, sectors, and firms
    • assuming leadership in CSR strategy development
  • MBA 833A, Systems Thinking for Sustainable Enterprise (seminar) Andrew Jones
    1.5 credits
    As we work to create businesses and societies that enhance the sustainability of life on Earth, persistent challenges such as air pollution, resource consumption, chronic disease, and climate change share certain characteristics: they defy quick fixes, they build and dissipate slowly over time, they are rarely “owned” by any country or business but affect all, and their components are tightly coupled. These challenges are often called “systems problems.”

    Powerful approaches to addressing these challenges include systems thinking and system dynamics modeling, which grew out of MIT’s Sloan School of Management in the 1950s. These methods use diagramming and simulation modeling to understand how to improve the performance of a social/physical system such as a business, an ecosystem, an industry, or the Earth.

    This course will focus on two topics: 1) the analytic methods of systems thinking and modeling: diagramming, simulation use, and basic simulation creation, and 2) solutions to the core “system traps” impeding progress towards a sustainable world, including the “tragedy of the commons,” resource overshoot, and the pull towards symptomatic fixes. The primary examples to be considered will be international negotiations over climate change, the global energy transition, fisheries, diabetes in the U.S., and the topics that students suggest.

    This course will be offered in three day-long seminars, with two individual assignments, a group project between the second and third classes, and multiple role-playing “serious games” on sustainable development challenges. Students must attend all three sessions to receive course credit.
  • MBA 850A New Urbanism, Smart Growth and Sustainable Community Development Jim Johnson
    1.5 credits
    Explore managed growth strategies that communities are using to deal with social, economic and environmental problems associated by sprawl. Teaching methods include readings, lectures, case analyses, and class discussions. You will apply what you have learned by working as consultants for the city of Martinsville, VA, a former furniture manufacturing town. Your assignment will be to devise a plan to create a healthy and sustainable future for the city.
  • MBA 855, Innovations in Green Building (seminar) Chris Wedding
    1.5 credits
    Green building has become one of the most significant forces in real estate development. By 2015, an estimated 45% of new non-residential construction will be green; this equates to a $135 billion opportunity. In this course, we will explore the varying definitions of green building and development; how it is applied at the community, site and building-level; what it can cost; how it can create financial, social and environmental value; how it can be measured; who is practicing and implementing it; how it is financed; and what third-party standards exist to verify it. The class will focus on new and innovative products, programs, businesses, systems, people, projects and organizations in this space. Students will examine these topics through recent books and articles; class lectures; visits from outside investors, entrepreneurs and professors; and targeted marketing, real estate and consulting projects, all with an emphasis on application. Final projects pair student teams with external clients such as William McDonough + Partners, Cherokee Investment Partners, Make It Right New Orleans, NC Department of Commerce, the US Green Building Council, the University of Cambridge, and green building start-ups. For students interested in becoming a LEED Green Associate, this class can serve as the prerequisite needed to sit for the exam.
  • MBA 862, International Development: Entrepreneurial Opportunities and Market Failures Larry Chavis
    1.5 credits
    This course compares and contrasts U.S.-centered business models with business models designed for use in developing countries. Students evaluate market entry and market expansion efforts; partnership issues between business, government, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs); and the efficacy of using “first world” models in “third world” environments. The course examines market conditions and business opportunities in developing economies; factors that help or hinder companies in pursuing these opportunities; and whether there is a role for business and innovation in eradicating poverty.
  • MBA 866, Social Entrepreneurship Jim Johnson
    1.5 credits
    The primary objective of this course is to broaden your knowledge and understanding of social entrepreneurship as an innovative approach to addressing complex social needs. A secondary objective is to afford you the opportunity to engage in a business planning exercise which is designed to assist you personally or local nonprofit organizations to establish and launch social purpose entrepreneurial venture.

    Toward these ends, the course is organized as follows:

    In Part I, we will define social entrepreneurship and discuss the contextual factors influencing the emergence of the field. In Part II, we will review the characteristics and motivations of social entrepreneurs and present a framework for creating social purpose ventures. In Part III, we will discuss case studies of successful social purpose ventures and present typologies of revenue generating options for enterprising nonprofit and government organizations. In Part IV, a panel of judges will evaluate your business plans.

  • MBA 866B, Social Innovations Lab
  • MBA 869, Corporate Environmental Strategy Carol Hee
    1.5 credits
    “Green” business and products have proliferated in recent years in parallel with an increasing awareness of the reality of global climate change. Despite the popularity of the “green” label, an understanding of environmental issues, agreement on the role of businesses in addressing environmental problems, and the most effective strategies for doing so remain under developed. Through readings of seminal texts, case studies, and a project which focuses on exemplar companies, this course aims to impart an understanding of the most pressing environmental issues and the relevance of these to business concerns. The focus of this course will be to explore and evaluate possible solutions from the perspective of an executive decision-maker. Within the context of an MBA education, this course has the following goals: to develop students’ ability to think critically, systematically evaluate complex issues, and weigh interconnected and conflicting interests; to increase students’ capacity to comprehend and make use of scientific and quantitative information to ground their decision-making; and to improve students’ ability to communicate their ideas clearly and effectively.
  • MBA 869A, Leadership Strategies for Sustainable (seminar) Lisa Jones
    Sustainable Enterprise (Elective)


    This course help individuals decide when and how to be a change agent (both inside and outside of work). We help students identify and practice strategies that work with each individual’s personality and leadership goals. The course is designed to utilize some of the most popular and effective team and individual exercises formerly discussed only in the “Sustainability Leadership Capstone” course. After finishing the course you will have experience in how to integrate your education with your passions in a way that effectively moves you and your goals forward. In this course, we explore how individuals and teams do the following: 1) innovate or remove barriers to innovation; 2) scale innovations that already exist; 3) cultivate a culture of authenticity and accountability; 4) discuss systems, power, and privilege in ways that bring people together rather than drive them further apart; and 5) learn how to reflect on past behavior to improve future behavior. We do all this by engaging in real-world, real-time partnership with local organizations so that the work contributes to regional sustainability goals. This type of work also means that your effort will help move an actual organization forward and we learn how to transition from theory to effective practice. In particular, we work with North Carolina organizations focused on creating a more socially and environmentally sustainable economy.

    Who Should Enroll?

    This course is designed for those who want to understand how to create social and financial value while also honing leadership talent. It applies to those who are formally focused on sustainable enterprise as well as to those who have never worked on sustainability-related projects. We welcome everyone interesting in learning more about being an effective and focused change agent. This course is particularly suited to those who: • Want to balance the capture of economic returns with the creation of social wealth • Look beyond traditional business opportunities to generate new ideas • Want to know more about social ventures, “social innovation,” and social value • Are ready to create leadership and action plans suited to your current passions and talents

    Key Methodologies and Topics Note: depending on enrollment, we may attempt some local travel as a class during class meeting times.

    The course will cover: Design Thinking and Human Centered Design for Social Innovation Social Return on Investment- How to Calculate and When Simulations on Power and Privilege Leadership as Direction, Alignment, and Commitment Storytelling in Business, Storytelling for Change Defining and Measuring Impact and Success Depending on the client, we may also cover topics such as sustainable tourism, sustainable local development, historic preservation, and job creation.

  • MBA 870, Global Immersion Elective - Sustainability Theme Miscellaneous (Elective) Global Immersion Elective courses are not open for bidding. Interested students should contact Valerie Slate, 919-962-5088, valerie_slate@kenan-flagler.unc.edu
  • MBA 899-005, Corporate Sustainability in Global Contexts

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