The MIT Sustainability Certificate: Unlocking the True Power of Supply Chains

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Tao Zhang, SCM Class of 2016

Rishi Gohil, SCM Class of 2016
Rishi Gohil, SCM Class of 2016

The world is at a crossroads – populations and economies are growing on pace to exceed the resources available. Yet despite human ingenuity and an ever-changing technological landscape, on a planet with finite resources, this growth is inevitably unsustainable. In fact, the grave social and environmental effects emanating from these growth dynamics are already inescapably evident. Such a complex and critical problem demands a swift and coordinated response by governments, private enterprises and individuals alike, to ensure that future generations enjoy just as much promise and opportunity as we do today.

Corporations and private enterprises are especially well positioned to catalyze the kind of changes needed to bridge the gap between the present and a more sustainable reality. As a matter of fact, sustainability is not just good for the world, it’s also great for business – you see sustainable organizations typically frame and execute business strategies with a long-term perspective, remaining cognizant of the communities and environments in which they operate. As a result, they minimize business risks and improve brand perception. Integral to any business strategy focused on sustainability is the design and implementation of an effective and transparent supply chain that refrains from sacrificing long-term organizational wellbeing in exchange for short-term profit-making. Aha! We found a business case for sustainable supply chains.

But how does one go about seeking the training needed to galvanize that sort of long-term, expansive thinking to incorporate into their everyday life / work processes? With a plethora of options already available to you during your time at MIT, you will have yet another one – the MIT Sloan Sustainability Certificate. Think of it as an opportunity to transform the way you see and perceive the world around you and as a means to expand your network to include a group of likeminded, passionate business leaders of tomorrow.

Going above and beyond the required SCM curriculum, the certification program (see program requirements here) mandates a few additional Sloan courses (full list here), which you will take primarily during your second semester. These courses are designed to broaden your knowledge of sustainability fundamentals, positioning you to solve problems with an inquisitive and broad-minded disposition. The program immerses you in classes rich with thought provoking discussion of pressing environmental and social issues facing businesses today. You build perspective as you learn from the insightful expertise of your professors as well as the unique experiences of a diverse group of peers. Concepts like System Dynamics taught by recognized thought leaders such as Dr. John Sterman impart novel approaches to break apart complex problems and systematically evaluate their individual constituents, helping form strategies to solve dilemmas once thought seemingly insurmountable.

No training is complete without the practical application of key insights gained from a theoretical instruction, which is the rationale behind Sustainable Business Lab, or S-Lab for short. S-Lab embodies MIT Sloan’s distinct style of experiential education, termed Action Learning, by partnering teams of students with host organizations –businesses, government organizations and NGOs – to solve real-world issues pertaining to sustainability. Through S-Lab, I had an opportunity to partner with a startup in their quest to address sustainability issues in the Food and Agriculture space using novel metrics-based technologies. Tao consulted with Advantek, an entrepreneurial waste management company, to discover revolutionary ways for solid waste disposal. Through direct engagement with host organizations, industry stakeholders and a supportive Sloan faculty, student teams actively manage their projects from cradle to implementation, applying their talents and exercising project management skills in creating tangible value for their host clients.

Alas, every rose has its thorn, and admittedly, the Sloan sustainability program is no exception. One of its caveats for SCM students is the limitation placed on their ability to take additional courses apart from their required sustainability oriented electives. The restriction stems from numerous competing priorities – thesis, recruitment, core classes, extra-curriculars, and lets be honest, sleep – that spread students so thin that their schedules lack the extra capacity to sign up for additional commitments. But, as they say, MIT is not for the frail of heart.

Ultimately, at the end of the program, you’ll emerge with an appreciation for your newfound skill sets and capabilities, a sense of empowerment to create meaningful and impactful change within any organization you work with and a view of tomorrow that is tinged with, to some extent, a shade of guarded optimism. The SCM program provides the tools and techniques useful in optimizing supply chains to function efficiently and effectively; the sustainability certificate will broaden your horizon, enabling you to make an even larger impact in evolving the supply chain to position it for long-term, sustainable growth.

We look around the world that we live in today envisioning an idyllic utopia to flourish in tomorrow. Working towards a world that allows future generations to, as a friend of mine once put it, not just survive but also to be able to thrive – that’s the essence of sustainability. And that future state of sustainable perfection is exactly what the MIT Sloan Sustainability Certificate will empower you to achieve.

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The MIT Sustainability Certificate: Unlocking the True Power of Supply Chains

One thought on “The MIT Sustainability Certificate: Unlocking the True Power of Supply Chains

  1. A very enthralling article!

    This is the exact reason I’m enrolling in two years time at MIT- SUSTAINABLE supply chain networks!

    Supply chain activities generate an enormous amount of man-made GHGs. More than any other process in business!

    The more environmentally (and technologically) conscious your supply chain is, the more waste and costs are minimized.

    Best Wishes

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