Can running or working in a sustainable business be learned? Many businesses today are focusing on going green, increasing their sustainability and closely examining their practices because an eco-conscious business makes sense for employees, customers and the planet. However, there has never been a “how-to” guide for planning for, running or managing a sustainable business, and many successful eco-minded businesses learned through a process of trial-and-error, changes in practice, and policy made over a span of months or years. Presidio Graduate School offers an opportunity to students that may lessen the learning curve that often comes from running or working for a sustainable business. The MBA in Sustainable Management program offered at Presidio allows graduates to enter the business world with the tools, knowledge and connections that will help them combine a sustainable mindset with sound business skills, creating a bright future not just for their future businesses, but for the future of the planet as well.
What makes Presidio Graduate School unique? To really understand the impact of Presidio’s programs, it is best to go to the source. Presidio student John Lehnert agreed to discuss Presidio’s benefits over other graduate schools and share some of his views on why Presidio is a smart choice for anyone who is looking for a graduate school that offers more than just a higher degree. John is enrolled in Presidio’s MBA program and explains his decision to attend Presidio as a combination of a change in direction and an emerging philosophy based on his interest in clean tech and alternative energy. For him, Presidio offered a holistic approach for sustainable practices combined with necessary business skills, a combination that was not offered at other graduate schools. In his opinion, you could look at a hundred other graduate schools and not find what Presidio offers: the opportunity to learn necessary business skills in areas including cash flow, payroll, and helping investors get a fair return, while also being given the opportunity to “be an agent of change.” This is what John referred to as the “sweet spot,” where Presidio became the intersection of a firm foundation of business skills and an incorporation of sustainability practices.
Presidio students are given many opportunities to practice the skills they are learning in the classroom by applying them to real companies with real problems to solve. Students are required to complete four different projects as part of the Experiential Learning program during their time at Presidio, each focusing on a different area: operations, marketing, finance and strategy. The wide range of opportunities available to students becomes immediately apparent. John was part of a team that helped an organic grass-fed beef farm in Marin County with their operations management. He recalls that the owners were very open to the team’s suggestions, and when the project was finished, the farm was in the process of implementing many of the students’ ideas and was “enthusiastic” about them. According to John, other teams and organizations at Presidio have worked on helping Farmer’s markets, a fishery and a company producing Acai juice, to name just a few. John noted that being in San Francisco was a benefit to Presidio students. There are so many opportunities available in the city and surrounding areas since people and businesses there tend to be forward thinking and many operations nearby are organic, sustainable or innovative.
Presidio students are often given opportunities to take their areas of interest and expand them. There are many student organizations available at Presidio, but one John mentioned is called PRESTO, which is an acronym for Presidio Sustainable Table Organization. The focus for this group is food security, organics, local food productions, and local agriculture. Many of the efforts the group focuses on include helping schools with providing fresh food to students, working with organizations involved with sustainability and food security, and getting involved in related industries. Other opportunities for student involvement include a Bike Club, a Green Building Club and an Entrepreneur Club.
Entrepreneurship is something John mentioned as a strength for graduates of Presidio. The school has a strong emphasis on helping students become entrepreneurs, with a big focus on building business plans that incorporate sustainability and strong business skills right from the beginning. Students who graduate and join an existing business are also positioned beneficially as they are able to help improve existing practices and help businesses become more sustainable. Another focus for some students at Presidio who are in Presidio’s MPA degree program is policy. Policies can help bring about positive changes, such as helping and supporting people to make better food choices.
Presidio Graduate School offers something more than just a graduate degree or an MBA. Through the many projects, classes and programs offered at Presidio, many students begin to find what was lacking in their unfulfilling jobs. For John, one of the keys he’s discovered was learning how interrelated everything is: food security is connected to the economy, the economy is connected to energy production, and everything affects the environment and the planet in different ways. Other students at Presidio may come away with different views, but one thing remains true. Every student emerges from Presidio with a bigger view of what it means to own or run a business or work in various industries while aligning their skills and philosophies to the betterment of the planet. It’s a vision based on the idea that we can have it all: a solid background in business skills, a working knowledge of sustainability practices and the firm belief that you don’t have to give up one in order to have the other. Presidio Graduate School sends its “agents of change” out into the business world, where they can confidently use their knowledge and experience to work for the betterment of our rapidly changing planet.