UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

Shaping Leaders, Driving Results

UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School
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History of the Center for Sustainable Enterprise

Founding of the Center

As part of a public university, UNC Kenan-Flagler has long cared about its impact on communities, the state, the nation and the world. The school’s approach values a "triple bottom line" that blends doing the right thing for people and the planet with the goal of making a profit.

The Center for Sustainable Enterprise’s formal efforts to spread knowledge and use of a "triple bottom line" in business started in 1999. The school called this first program the Kenan-Flagler Environmental Business Initiative. Later, the school changed the program’s name to the Sustainable Enterprise Initiative as the term “sustainable” came into wider use to describe the initiative. In 2001, UNC Kenan-Flagler founded the Center for Sustainable Enterprise, which was made possible by joint funding from two sources:

The Center’s first co-directors were professors Stuart L. Hart and James H. Johnson. The CSE’s mission was education, research, and outreach to advance ”triple bottom line“ thinking.

Professor Albert H. Segars has led the CSE as its faculty director since 2004, with the exception of the 2008-09 academic year when Carol Seagle served as faculty director. Al Segars is an expert in how to innovate and manage technology, bring about strategic change, and commercialize new products in ways that align the interests of business with stakeholders concerned for people and the planet.

Under Segars, the CSE established a vision for its research based on 4 ”pillars“ of program strategy and expertise:

  • Innovation & Design
  • Financial Metrics & Models
  • Economic Development
  • Leadership & Corporate Governance

One of the First to Teach and Research Sustainable Practices

UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School was one of the first business schools in the country to offer a complete curriculum (including an MBA Sustainable Enterprise Concentration) and to do research on sustainable business. The CSE’s work continues to lead the field and to broaden what the school offers in this area crucial to the future of business. The school continues to host major events, which draw thought leaders and students from around the world.

CSE Milestones
1999 Created Environmental Business Initiative
Hosted Greening of Industry International Network Conference
2000 Hosted first annual Sustainable Enterprise Career Fair
Created Sustainable Enterprise MBA Concentration
2001 Formed Center for Sustainable Enterprise
Hosted annual national Net Impact Conference
Launched Base of the Pyramid (BOP) Learning Laboratory
Launched CSE Mentoring Program
2002 Hosted the Sustainable Enterprise Academy
Held first annual ”Careers in Sustainability“ Forum
2003 Created SE Asia Global Immersion Elective for MBAs
2006 Founded the Sustainable Venture Capital Investment Competition, the first MBA competition in which students apply venture capital skills to assess socially and environmentally sustainable firms

Awarded the 2006 N.C. Sustainability Award for Innovative Initiatives for its one of a kind CSE Consulting Program
2008 Launched Sustainability KnowledgeBank, a free, searchable online database with UNC research on a broad range of sustainability topics including design for sustainability, microfinance, sustainable tourism, and more
2009 Launched BASE (UNC’s Business Accelerator for Sustainable Entrepreneurship), a flagship program of CSE, with the support of the Carolina Entrepreneurial Initiative, the Educational Foundation of America, the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and the Burt’s Bees Greater Good Foundation

Ranked as one of the top business schools in the world for education in sustainable enterprise (No. 2 rank in for-profit sustainability course content) by the Aspen Institute’s survey, “Beyond Grey Pinstripes”
2010 Created pilot Sustainability Immersion leadership course for hand-picked 2nd year students as capstone experience to MBA

Partnered with CIBER and OneMBA on Global Innovations in Energy: How Business is Addressing Climate Change conference
2011 Hosted William McDonough, co-author of Cradle to Cradle for a talk attended by over 400 people in person and via the web

Over 25% of MBA students graduated with a concentration in sustainable enterprise (concentration composed of 21 electives)
2012 Partnered with organizations across UNC and the Triangle to co-host Shared Tables: A Triangle Symposium on Local and Global Food Studies

Over 30% of MBA students graduated with a concentration in sustainable enterprise (concentration composed of 21 electives)

UNC Kenan-Flagler ranked No. 4 in courses with for-profit impact and No. 9 globally by The Aspen Institute’s 2012 Beyond Grey Pinstripes ranking of business schools worldwide


UNC Kenan-Flagler ranked No. 3 globally for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Ethics by The Financial Times in their Global MBA Rankings 2013

Partnered with organizations across UNC to co-host the 2013 UNC Global Sustainability Symposium: Water and Energy in the Crosshairs

UNC Kenan-Flagler ranked No. 7 globally for Sustainability in Bloomberg Businessweek’s 2013 MBA Rankings: Top Schools for Sustainability
2014 During the 2013-2014 academic year, Kenan-Flagler received FOUR top-ten rankings: #7 for Sustainability by Businessweek #7 “Best Green MBA” by The Princeton Review #9 for Corporate Social Responsibility and Ethics by the Financial Times #9 “Top Program for Sustainability” in Net Impact 2013 Business as Unusual Guide

Co-hosted the first NC Clean Tech Summit

Partnered with organizations across UNC to co-host the 2014 UNC Global Sustainability Symposium: The Story of Cities


Celebrated the 15th Anniversary of the Center for Sustainable Enterprise.

Partnered with the MBA Net Impact Club to develop:

1) Social Impact Summer Grants program whereby financial support is provided to MBA students utilizing business skills during their summer internship within organizations that are making a positive social impact.
2) Established FoodCon, a day-long conference that connects food-oriented organizations with top MBA talent and thought leaders in the food sustainability arena.

Developed Sustainability Research in Practice seminars; live case discussions between select Kenan-Flagler faculty presenting their relevant research and those industry practitioners implementing their strategies.


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