4 Reasons to Consider Sustainable Systems Management

June 29, 2015

Never before have college students had an opportunity to play such an impactful role in the protection of the environment while supporting our global economy.  These two end-goals have been at odds for decades.  Business and the almighty dollar often came at a high price to our environment.   But now, we know that the greater global demand for energy, land, water, and other raw materials will force us to rethink how we use our resources for the greater good. 

For that very reason, the University of Minnesota recently renamed the Bioproducts Marketing and Management degree program to Sustainable Systems Management.  The change to the name and to the curriculum came after years of conversations with students, graduates, and employers.  Everyone identified that students need knowledge and skills to integrate the goals of economic growth and development in global markets with protecting public health and the environment.  Everyone identified that students need a better understanding of sustainability, business and analytical problem solving.  

Let’s go deeper into reasons for college students to consider enrolling in Sustainable Systems Management.

It’s All About Systems - Systems thinking is defined by the Waters Foundation as the “habits, tools and concepts to develop an understanding of the interdependent structures of dynamic systems.”  In simple terms, systems thinking is seeing the forest for the trees, seeing the big picture, or seeing the overall situation. 

Systems thinking was infused into the program to create a comprehensive systems approach to advancing solutions for processes and products, commercial and industrial businesses, buildings, and energy systems that promote sustainability.

The Consumption of Resources - McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), the business and economics research arm of McKinsey & Company, states in their report on Meeting the World’s Energy, Materials, Food, and Water Needs that our “resource challenge can be met through a combination of expanding their supply and a step change in the way they are extracted, converted, and used.”  Their report outlines 3 different fronts that policy makers should consider in order to move resources to “the heart of public policy and business strategy.”  

Students with an interest in business and an interest in the environment and technology should consider magnitude of this report and ponder how they can play a role in the future.

Decision Makers Need Good Information – GRI, a pioneer in sustainability reporting, states in their Strategy to Empower Sustainable Decision Making report that they intend to “increase transparency and build trust in businesses and governments...(to empower) decision making throughout organizations”. This type of effort exemplifies the world’s need for professionals with a better understanding of business and marketing, and a technical background in products, energy and systems.

And, There Are Jobs! – In the end, no matter the reasons for wanting to pursue a career, it comes down the type of jobs available in that field.   In 2013, the Bureau of Labor Statistics identified over 3 million “green” jobs. The Green Career Information website shines a spotlight on the diversity of industries that await Sustainable Systems Management students and graduates.

Having the right experiences as a college student and the right coursework will prepare you for the right career. 

For more information about Sustainable Systems Management, please see the website or contact Marlee Schlief, Student Services and External Relations Coordinator, at marlee@umn.edu or 612-624-9603.