This post is part a series by Steve Cohen, Executive Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, about the importance of sustainability management.
In 2010, I began to direct a new masters program in Sustainability Management at Columbia University. We expected it to be a small start-up program, possibly attracting 30 or 40 students. Instead, last September we started with 115 students and by January that number had grown to over 150 students. This fall, the program enrolled about 240 students. Over the past year our faculty developed over 20 new courses, including a new course that I teach in sustainability management. That course combines basic organizational and change management with the fundamental issues of sustainability: waste, energy, food, water and ecology. In order create a structure for my new course, and provide a primer on the subject, I wrote a book called Sustainability Management.
One of the main goals of this new book is to help change the definition of management effectiveness to include the physical dimensions of sustainability. I believe that sustainability is simply the latest step in the past century’s evolution of the field of organizational management. The development of the modern field of management begins in the early 20th century with the invention of the techniques of mass production and the assembly line — followed by the start of modern human resource management. Later, we see the development of Generally Accepted Accounting Practices and the evolution of the Chief Financial Officer position. In the 1960’s-1990’s, computing and communications technology advances resulted in the growth of non-financial performance indicators. Well managed organizations established Chief Information Officers to manage the exponential increase in information circulating through the organization. At the end of the 20th century the growth of the global economy required that many organizations develop the capacity to operate internationally. The modern CEO must understand all of it: production, finance and financial management, human resource management, information management, international trade and commerce.
The book is an effort to develop a framework for understanding and analyzing sustainability. I’m trying to help identify and overcome the obstacles to achieving a sustainable economy. The book addresses sustainability management issues pragmatically and operationally. My aim in writing this book was to provide a tool for sustainability change agents and to assist those seeking to transform their organizations, communities and cities. In order to stay competitive, organizations in the public and private sectors need to incorporate sustainability management into their daily work.
Steven Cohen is the Executive Director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute and professor in the practice of public affairs at the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). He is also Director of the Master’s Program in Sustainability Management at Columbia’s School of Continuing Education.
Click here for information on purchasing the book.