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 782N/SOWO 885: Financial Management of Nonprofit Organizations Matt Despard, School of Social Work
    1.5 credits
    This course will help students gain the knowledge and skills they need to guide nonprofit organizations through a variety of important financial decisions and tasks. Students will learn about key fiduciary responsibilities of boards of directors, Section 501c3 requirements, management roles, the audit process, internal controls and nonprofit accounting standards. Students will also develop full cost accounting and budgeting skills, learn how to read and analyze nonprofit financial statements, and develop critical thinking skills concerning resource development strategy. Course Materials & Textbooks: Peters, J.B. & Schaffer, E. (2005). Financial leadership for nonprofit executives. Saint Paul, MN: Amherst H. Wilder Foundation. In addition, several readings are assigned that provide greater depth that the course text on various topics. Course Grading: 80% of the course grade will be determined on the basis of either a final exam or completion of a financial health assessment with a nonprofit organization. 20% will be based on attendance and participation. Class Format: MBA students will join SOWO 885 mid semester after satisfactorily passing prerequisite module quizzes, preparation for which will be available in an online self-study format via Blackboard. This format is intended to quickly bring MBA students up to speed on nonprofit accounting content, having completed MBA core content in Managerial and Financial Accounting. For the purpose of fulfilling requirements of the UNC Nonprofit Leadership Certificate, a total of 3 credits will be recognized – 1.5 credits from Managerial and Financial Accounting and 1.5 credits for MBA 782N/SOWO 885. Class sessions will emphasize practical, skills building exercises involving various nonprofit organization case scenarios, non-evaluated quizzes, some lecture and discussion.
  • MBA 790, Energy Project Finance (seminar) Stephen Arbogast
    1.5 credits

    Energy Project Finance seeks to introduce students to the fundamentals of project financing and how it is used in the energy industry. Students should emerge from this course with a basic understanding of how to undertake a project financing and when it a can aid energy firms in creating shareholder value.

    This three day course will expose students to both the strategic uses of project financing and the practical aspects of executing a financing. Day one will provide an introduction to project finance; it also will offer an overview of the reasons why energy companies use project financing as part of their strategic plans. Day two will focus on the economics of project financing. More specifically it will describe how to adjust project economics when project finance is being employed. Day three will discuss the mechanics of executing a project financing. Students will be introduced to the issues of sizing and structuring a project loan, picking an adviser and negotiating final loan terms.

  • MBA 790A, Renewable Energy: Project Development and Finance (seminar) Joel Thomas and Paul Holshouser
    1.5 credits

    The objective of this course will be for students to better understand wind and solar energy projects as they are deployed in the United States, the project finance environment that funds them, and be better prepared for potential jobs in the sector. The content is designed to appeal to students from all concentrations and work backgrounds.

    Students will learn about each of the leading renewable technologies from the ground up in order to create a pro-forma projection for both a wind and solar project. This includes a review of wind and solar at the technology level so that students learn more about how each natural resource is converted into electricity and the history of each technology over the past 40 years. Another key aspect of this review will cover the various business models deployed by renewable energy developers and how the U.S. electricity markets drive energy project development. The course covers the key risks associated with solar and wind projects, including environmental, competitive, regulatory, counterparty, and power off-take risks. The electricity sector features a particularly strong influence from federal and state governments. We will review the influences of government policies on the renewable sector and how to appropriately mitigate policy risk. Relatedly, the project finance market for renewable projects shows the effects of tax-based government incentives. Impacts include which companies participate in project finance, and the transaction structures that are unique to green energy. The primary output of this course will be a pro-forma projection of a wind and solar exercise. This pro forma will help illustrate the economics of green energy projects as students model realistic variables that determine project success or failure. A simulated power bidding process will show how these variables impact projects in the real world and is designed to prepare students for interviews and be ready to face these challenges in a renewable energy career. The instructors will discuss the future of wind and solar energy and conclude the course by discussing the jobs market in renewable energy for MBA students. Many of the risk mitigation, development, and project finance lessons in this course can be applied to any form of project development.

  • MBA 799 Governance and Financial Accountability Michael Jacobs
    1.5 credits
    In this course you will receive a high level overview of the forces that impact financial decision making and reporting. The roles of boards, shareholders and government entities in governing corporations will be examined. Some of the questions that will be explored through readings, case discussions and guest speakers include the following:
    • What qualities make a board effective, and what are the roles of various board committees?
    • How are public companies governed differently from private companies, and why is private equity growing so rapidly?
    • How does executive compensation influence managerial decisions?
    • What is the legal and regulatory framework governing financial decisions and reporting?
    • Why do financial scandals crop up in some companies and not others?
  • MBA 806, Global Context of Business

    1.5 credits
    Objective: To understand the evolution of the global political economy. Also, to grasp the challenges managers of multinational enterprises face when operating in a world without borders, with potential markets and competitors everywhere.

    Skills/knowledge learned: How globalization and the shift from industrial to post-industrial competition is impacting the competitiveness of individuals, firms and nations.

    Teaching methods: Case analysis and in-class discussion.

  • MBA 807E, Sustainability Leadership Capstone Lisa Jones Christensen
    6.0 credits
    The Sustainability Leadership Capstone equips leaders with skills and experiences that enable them to advance sustainable business practices immediately after business school and throughout their careers. The capstone applies equally to individuals who intend to work as changemakers within traditional businesses and to those who intend to work in non-profit and mission-driven organizations. The course offers a unique opportunity to synthesize and deepen mastery of core business practices through sustainability-focused experiential learning, individualized feedback, classroom lectures, and guided personal reflection. The capstone builds upon the general management and functional area training already in place by the second year of the MBA program by adding skills and frameworks specific to the sustainability context.
  • MBA 815B, Strategies in Sustainable Enterprise Carol Hee
    1.5 credits
    This course will provide students with an in-depth examination of the strategies companies are using to advance the “triple bottom line” through a series of guest speakers representing multiple industries. The pervasiveness of business claims about being “green” and increased societal expectations for businesses to be “responsible” have brought sustainability into the mainstream. Consequently, businesses that desire competitive advantage and leadership have embraced sustainability as an integral component of their strategy. As a result of this course, students will have familiarity with the strategies companies implement to accomplish goals such as to reduce their environmental footprint, market to the “green” consumer, increase employee loyalty, address social issues, and build shareholder value.
  • MBA 820, Impact Investing (seminar)

    Richard Larson
    1.5 credits
    Growing “single bottom line” for-profit companies have access to well-developed equity and debt markets at every stage of their development. On the other hand, social ventures – those that generate earned revenue while pursuing social or environmental benefits -- face limited options for expansion capital. For-profit social ventures find that traditional investors are wary of company objectives that might reduce the potential profitability of a firm. Non-profit social ventures are by definition unable to access traditional equity markets, so typically they must fund growth with a blend of debt and philanthropic revenue, or develop “hybrid” models to access equity investors. Fortunately, the universe of social enterprise investors and lenders is growing. New corporate structures, industry metrics, and financing platforms are being developed to bring transparency to the market and facilitate the flow of capital to social enterprises in a range of industries.

    Financing Social Venture: Risk Capital for Expansion explores how social entrepreneurs are faring in their search for growth capital, and how investors and lenders adapt traditional forms of financing to support enterprises seeking both profit and mission. The course will examine the debt and equity structures available to social ventures (both non-profit and for-profit) and their implications for financial growth and mission impact. We will also discuss how financing options are affected by legal structure innovations (e.g., B-Corp, L3C) and metrics for “mission impact” investors (e.g., GIIRS).

    Students will explore these concepts in a series of cases on domestic and international social ventures that need risk capital to grow. By the end of the class every student will understand the existing capital opportunities for non-profit and for-profit social ventures and have an appreciation for the “state of the art” through class assignments, readings, and contact with practitioners.

    This course is designed for MBA students who seek to understand the forms of risk capital available to grow social ventures “to scale,” because they plan to: (a) pursue social entrepreneurship as a career; b) pursue a career in social venture finance; or (c) support social ventures at some point in their career as board members, investors, or advisors. Students with venture capital experience are welcome but may find some material repetitive.

  • 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 831C, Strategic Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) (seminar) Kellie McElhaney
    1.0 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 833 Alternative Energy (seminar) Mark Corigliano
    1.5 credits
    The Alternative Energy course will begin with an overview of traditional energy markets including crude oil, natural gas and electricity in order to understand the competitive forces within alternative energy. We will then review the relevant science concerning climate change to address the policy framework regarding greenhouse gas emissions. The class will thoroughly analyze alternative energy technologies currently in use such as wind, solar and geothermal. Students will present on alternative energy companies to debate the merits of individual strategies and technologies. The heavily debated topic of hydraulic fracturing within shale gases will also be discussed, leading to an analysis of the various alternatives to utilize our nation’s vast and inexpensive natural gas reserve. Upon completion of the course, students will gain an appreciation for the challenges facing our energy future and the opportunities to permanently alter energy’s landscape.
  • 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 836, Entrepreneurship & Minority Economic Development Jim Johnson
    1.5 credits
    This course is designed to promote and foster entrepreneurship as a strategy for accelerating minority upward mobility and wealth accumulation, strengthening the capacity and sustainability of local community development organizations, and enhancing the overall economic competitiveness of places, especially severely distressed urban and rural communities. The course objectives are threefold: (1) to broaden your knowledge and understanding of the history and contemporary state of minority entrepreneurship in America; (2) to explore the opportunities and threats that minority entrepreneurs will face in the years ahead in the increasingly speed driven and knowledge intensive global economy; and (3) to afford you the opportunity to work as a consultant on a project designed to foster and facilitate an entrepreneurial venture in the private, non-profit, or government sector.
  • 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 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 869C, Public Private Development Projects George Jolley
    1.5 credits
    This course will introduce students to government funding mechanisms and public-private partnership (PPP) financing of large-scale physical capital projects in the developed and developing world. With infrastructure spending worldwide expected to increase by $2 trillion in the next three years, expertise in infrastructure finance, project finance, and public finance offers students remarkable opportunities in this rapidly expanding job market. These sectors include traditional infrastructure (highways, airports, and water/sewer) as well as emerging infrastructure projects (high speed rail and energy based projects such as wind/solar farms, fuel cells, etc.). The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the public and private sector together spend $500 billion a year on infrastructure in the US. Developing countries are investing even more heavily in infrastructure. CIBC World Markets predicts $35 trillion in global infrastructure spending in the next 20 years. Last year alone, China’s counteracted the global financial crisis with $586 billion in stimulus spending on infrastructure. India is seeking $1 trillion in infrastructure investment and projects $250-300 billion of this investment will be provided by US financial institutions. Despite the potential for emerging market opportunities in infrastructure investment, the scale and complexity of these “mega” projects requires complex partnerships between private companies, governments, intergovernmental organizations, and/or non-governmental organizations. Students in this course will gain exposure to the macro strategies and public policy decisions undertaken in successful mega-project financing and learn about the shortcomings and challenges in project failures.

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