A Few Notes about This Blog

This blog shares my insights on the design, introduction and active management of effective sustainability programs in hospital settings. Unlike the thousands of discussions on sustainability's altruistic, conceptual and technical aspects, though, this blog approaches the discipline from organizational management and development perspectives.

Over the past few years there has been a lot of discussion in the trade media around the American Hospital Association's new "Sustainability Roadmap for Hospitals," which complements the association's excellent work in its recent "Executive Primer on Hospital Environmental Sustainability." (

With the AHA - as well as Practice Greenhealth, Healthcare without Harm and other organizations - staking authoritative claims to the topic, why do I think it necessary to add my two cents? Here's why. The AHA executive primer covers several of the big concepts any good sustainability program should have. Further, its roadmap details many of the high-level steps needed to create and run it. However, neither will be able to adequately explore institution-specific details for successful organizational design, change management and program effectiveness.

That's not a failing of AHA's superlative work; it is simply recognition that when it comes to management programs, such as sustainability, one size does not fit all. Each hospital needs to custom design its own sustainability program to meet its specific needs, including working within its resource limits and opportunities. Helping you and your institution work through the details is where this blog comes in.

The first few blog posts address basic concepts, including the special challenges healthcare delivery organizations face whenever they create new performance capabilities. After that the discussion will shift to the key questions a hospital – or, any other organization for that matter – must answer in creating and running a sustainability program and, by extension, an all-encompassing corporate social responsibility program. Then, the discussions dive into the "how-to-do-it" details with a big emphasis on anticipating and controlling obstructions to success.

Rather than prescribe rigid off-the-shelf methods that may have worked well elsewhere – yet, might not work so well at your hospital – these discussions will pose key questions that must be answered by the best minds at all levels of your institution to create a customized program.

This blog is a serialized body of work. So, if this is your first visit, I highly recommend that you start with the oldest post date and work forward from there. The entries will make a lot more sense that way.

For those of you who work in other industries, substitute the words "hospital" and "healthcare" used throughout the posts with the name of your industry or company. You'll probably find the information in this blog fits your field and organization quite well.

Lastly, if you are a sustainability professional, I would be honored if you sign-up to follow this blog and share it with your colleagues. Also, please feel free to share your views and experiences.

Thank you for stopping by.

Friday, February 24, 2012


Even before my work in 2009 to design a couple of courses for a large university system serving working professionals, I was fascinated with the concept of an ideal undergraduate or graduate degree program in corporate environmental sustainability management.  It all started back in the mid-1990’s while I was at Midwest Research Institute as a principal scientist completing an MBA on the side.  Of course, at that time there were no green MBA programs.   So, I did the next best thing and wrote my thesis on corporate environmental management system design and implementation.

It only seemed natural for me to write a business administration thesis on an environmental management topic.  By that point in my technical career I realized that although solutions to environmental problems often involve logic, science, engineering and technology, implementing those solutions requires advanced management skill sets.  Management skill sets are needed to lead groups of differentially motivated, highly emotional and often reluctant people through planning, organizing and controlling to beneficially transform an organization’s functions and outcomes. 

Okay, it’s time for an epiphany . . .  if you’ve been relying on reason and altruism alone to effect green changes at your hospital, you now know why you struggle so much. 

As Groucho would say, you can’t swing a cat these days without hitting a certificate, bachelors or masters program in sustainability.   But, how many of them are really any good?   I think an appropriate answer could be:

Not as many as one might hope.

I came to these generalized conclusions about academic sustainability programs while researching the state-of-the-art three years ago: 

           Far too many programs consisted of retreaded – but essentially unchanged – science and management courses “tarted-up” with sustainability buzzwords

           Publishers – when they did print sustainability-themed textbooks – were guilty of the same sins as academia

           There wasn’t much information being provided by juried journals, whereas, the popular sustainability e-press was bursting at the seams with a never-ending flow of useful information drowning in drivel

           Professional societies and their publications viewed the broad range of sustainability disciplines almost exclusively through the myopic lens of their particular specialty, and

           Despite all the buzzword-centric programs and courses, few, if any, were defining and teaching real-world systematic processes to actually do sustainability work in corporate settings.

Three years later I’d like to think things have changed . . . but, I have my well-founded doubts.   So, last summer in a brilliant display of self-absorbed chutzpah I assembled a fairly complete template – or so I thought – for an undergraduate or graduate degree program in corporate environmental sustainability management. 

First, I masochistically ran it past close colleagues and other cronies for their review and amendment suggestions.  Then, I sent it out to a few arm's-distance-chums in academia, who happen to be deans and department chairs.  Just so you know, the academia sample size – which was utterly inadequate in a statistical sense – included six public and private universities from the middle Atlantic, southern and western states. 

Two of the schools are in the early stages of developing new programs, while four of them have existing ones.  It’s important to note that of the existing programs, one is very highly regarded nationally and the others are well regarded in their respective regions. 

The responses back from the colleagues were extremely useful, as were those that came back from the academics . . .  only in different ways.  Here are some of the responses received from the deans and department chairs.   (BTW, I love the last comment!)

  • “We don’t have any faculty who can teach these subjects and due to budget constraints we can’t hire any new ones who do, even if we could find them.”
  • “There aren’t any textbooks on these subjects.”
  • “We don’t have money for new curriculum development.”
  • “We’re a top-tier school in sustainability.  We feel our existing curricula are adequate.  We don’t need to create new programs and courses.”
  • “We don’t understand how business management fits into the science of sustainability.”

Wow!  Even though these responses could hardly represent all of academia, just the same, they were real eye-openers!   Here we have private-sector companies leading a sustainability revolution.  Yet, some schools – hopefully not all of them – are taking inadvertent and, in some cases, intentional “follower” positions in the development of the field. 

So, should you want to broaden your professional skill sets in sustainability management, you have your work cut out for you.  Indeed, collect every bit of detailed comparative information you can find on academic rigor, programs, courses, and faculty qualifications from as many schools you might be able to attend. 

Uh-oh!    Another one of my very strongly held biases just slipped out.  Unlike traditional disciplines, such as history, where an online program may be perfectly adequate, I’m of the opinion – and, it’s just a personal opinion – that management courses should be taught sparingly online. 

Why?  The management disciplines are as much art as they are science.  Through these disciplines a student learns how to lead organizations, i.e., groups of people.   Leading groups of people is a high-touch activity requiring a well-developed emotional-quotient (EQ) to understand and motivate human beings in all of their varieties, especially the neurotic and sometimes psychotic ones.  Following this line of reasoning, I can’t fathom how a future organizational leader could possibly develop a high EQ while holed-up hermit-like in front of a computer monitor.  

So, I’d suggest finding a really good on-the-ground program where you can mix-it-up nose-to-nose with other students and faculty.   Plus, if a school requires internships and other real-world interactions, all the better yet.  

In your research for the perfect sustainability management program I’d suggest comparing available programs to the curriculum template presented at the end of this post.  If you can find something that comes close to the template’s suggestions, go for it. 

However, don’t waste your precious tuition dollars on wannabe programs.  If you can’t find a good program, become a discerning self-teacher/self-learner and get yourself some green project experience.  You’re a smart person; you can do it.  You may just end up farther ahead in your professional development than you would otherwise.  Plus, you may just have a lot more money in the bank for starting-up that new green enterprise of which you’ve been dreaming. 



A business-focused environmental sustainability program has five essential elements:
  • Strategic, Tactical and Operational Environmental Sustainability Program Management
  • Regulatory and Industry Standards Compliance 
  • Efficiency in Product and Service Value Systems and Their Lifecycles
  • Increased Revenue Generation through Green-Attribute Products and Services, and
  • Tangible and Intangible Competitive Advantages through "Greenwash-Free" Corporate Transparency.

Divided into these five elements, basic courses are suggested below.  In addition to sustainability courses, standard business management prerequisites are also suggested.  As currently outlined, there are 25 3-unit courses, including the prerequisites.  Of course, there are opportunities to reduce the number of courses down to a 60-unit curriculum by merging related topics.

  • Introduction to Business Management
  • Financial Accounting
  • Managerial Accounting
  • Finance
  • Statistics
  • Macro and Micro Economics
  • Information and Communications Technology
  • Ethics
  • Marketing
  • Business Law/Corporate Risk Management
  • Operations Management (Emphasis on Systematic Continuous-Improvement Concepts and Methods, Administrative and Industrial Process Design, Project Management, Active Process Management and Performance Improvement Methods)
  • Organizational Behavior/Structured Change Management (Emphasis on the Change Agent Roles and Tactics of Corporate Loyalist, Provocateur, Insurrectionist and Diplomat to Measurably Achieve Corporate Objectives)
  • Strategic Planning and Implementation


  • Introduction to Corporate Environmental Sustainability
    • Relationship of Sustainability to the Concept of Corporate Social Responsibility
    • Common Developmental Phases of Corporate Social Responsiblity Programs
    • Historical Perspective:  From the 19th Century Preservation Movement to the 21st Century Concept of "Making Money by Doing Good"
    • Essential Sustainability Science Concepts
      • Chemistry/Physics
      • Earth Sciences
      • Atmospheric Sciences
      • Biotic Sciences
      • Environmental Management Technical Principles and Practices
    • The Business Case for Environmental Sustainability
    • Environmental Sustainability's Role in Achieving the Prime Directive of Finance
    • Sustainability 1.0 Versus Sustainability 2.0 and Beyond
    • Integrating the Five Elements of Corporate Environmental Sustainability into the Overall Enterprise Management Structure

  • Sustainability Program Strategic, Tactical and Operational Planning, Organizing, Controlling and Leading
    • Sustainability Program Organizational Structures and Work Processes
    • Sustainability Intelligence Gathering and Analysis to Produce Actionable Information 
    • Strategic and Tactical Sustainability Planning
    • Methods to Link Strategic and Tactical Intentions to Administrative and Operational Activities and Accountabilities
    • Methods to Achieve Sustainability Innovation in Administration and Operations Functions
    • Management System Standards Including ISO 14000, ISO 26000, OHSAS 18000, ISO 50000, Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Requirements, etc.

  • Financial and Other Quantitative Methods for Sustainability Program Management
    • Sustainability Program Operating and Capital Budget Planning, Approval Processes, and Controls
    • Sustainability Program Performance Measurement and Analytical Methods, Including the Definition of Critical Performance Baselines and Periodic Production of Green Dashboards and Balanced Scorecards
    • Environmental Cost Accounting
    • People, Planet and Profit Financial Analytical Methods, Including Full-3P-Dimension Return-on-Investment Techniques
    • Principles and Practices of Green Financial Investment
    • Sustainability Financial Indices – Dow Jones Sustainability Index, FTSE KLD Global Sustainability Index, Ethibel/Standard and Poors Sustainability Index, etc.
    • Accessing Capital Markets for Green Ventures, Initiatives and Projects
    • The Fundamentals of GHG and Other Cap-and-Trade Schemes    

  • Green Information Technology
    • Sustainability Information Management Systems:  Survey of Software Applications, Systems Analysis, and Design, Implementation and Management
    • Green IT Facilities Design and Management, Including Hardware Procurement, Energy Management, and Hardware End-of-Life Disposition
    • Innovative Uses of IT to Reduce Corporate Environmental Impacts


  • Principles and Practices of Regulatory and Industry Standards Compliance
    • Overview of Compliance Activities within the Overall Corporate Risk Management Function
    • Environmental, Health and Safety Regulations
    • Current and Future Securities and Exchange Commission Reporting Requirements
    • Survey of General and Industry-Specific Environmental Sustainability Performance Standards
    • Strategies, Tactics and Operations Methods for Regulation and Standards Compliance
    • Auditing Program Design, Implementation and Management
    • Corrective Action Implementation and Control


  • Management of Green Value Systems
    • The Lifecycle Dimension of Product and Service Value Systems
    • Basic and Advanced Lifecycle Analysis Methods
    • Enhancing Continuous-Improvement Methods with Sustainability Methods – Including Japanese Union of Scientists and Engineers, Toyota Lean and Six Sigma Techniques – to Drive All Waste Out of Value Systems and Their Associate Lifecycles
    • Green Procurement Principles, Practices and Methods
    • Green Manufacturing
    • Green Service Delivery
    • Green Logistics
    • Reverse Logistics

  • Principles and Practices of Pollution Minimization and Eradication
    • Basic Reduce, Reuse and Recycle (3R) Concepts and Methods Applicable to All Types of Wastes
    • Applications of Lifecycle Assessment Methods to Identify Opportunities to Minimize or Eliminate Wastes in Value Systems
    • Specific Requirements and Methods for Gaseous Waste Management
    • Specific Requirements and Methods for Aqueous Waste Management
    • Specific Requirements Methods for Hazardous Waste Management – Including Chemical, Biological and Radioactive Wastes
    • Specific Requirements and Methods for Solid Waste Management

  • Energy, Greenhouse Gas, Water Stewardship and Other Key Resource Management Concerns
    • The Business Case for and the Principles, Practices and Methods of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Reduction
    • GHG's Role as a "Common Currency" in Measuring the Efficacy of Energy Management Efforts
    • Strategies, Tactics and Operations Activities for Reducing Energy Consumption and Shifting to Sustainable Energy Sources
    • The Design and Economics of Internal Sustainable Energy Generation
    • Green Vehicle Fleet Management
    • Carbon Trading Markets, Strategies, Tactics and Methods
    • Quantitative Methods for Tracking, Analyzing and Reporting GHG Reduction Progress
    • Principles, Practices and Methods for Corporate Water Stewardship
    • Principles, Practices and Methods for Corporate Land Resource Management

  • Green Facilities
    • Basic Design-with-Nature Concepts and Techniques
    • Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Standards
      • Facility and Structure Certification Processes
      • Professional Certification Processes
    • Other Standards, Including BREAM, Istidama and State of California
    • Retrofitting and Operating Existing Facilities and Structures
    • Designing, Constructing and Operating New Facilities and Structures


  • Green Product and Service Design
    • The Need for Breakthrough Performance in Product and Service Design
    • The Critical Role of Lifecycle Analysis in Green Product and Service Design
    • Green Materials in Packaging and Products
    • Principles and Methods for New Green Tangible Product Design
    • Principles and Methods for Imbuing Existing Tangible Products with Green Attributes
    • Principles and Methods for New Green Service Design
    • Principles and Methods for Imbuing Existing Services with Green Attributes

  • Greenwash-Free Marketing and Sales
    • Green Marketing Intelligence Gathering and Analysis to Produce Actionable Information
    • Principles, Practices and Methods of Ethical Marketing and Sales to Drive Revenues from Green-Attribute Products and Services
    • Risks of and Obviation Methods for Greenwashing in Promotion and Public Relations Initiatives
    • Receptivity of Market Niches to Green Marketing and Sales Efforts
    • Green Product and Service Pricing
    • Other Green Marketing Mix Product, Price, Place and Promotion (4P) Considerations


  • Greenwash-Free Corporate Transparency
    • Corporate Transparency Ethics
    • Use of Transparency Programs to:
      • Protect Corporate Reputation
      • Enhance Access to Capital Markets
      • Enable Access to New Markets
      • Support Stakeholder Outreach Activities
      • Build and Sustain Customer Loyalty
      • Attract and Retain High-Performance Employees
    • Designing, Implementing and Managing a Corporate Transparency Program
      • Systems and Work Processes to Capture and Analyze Relevant and Accurate Data and Other Information
      • Regulatory Compliance Reporting
      • Industry Standards Compliance Reporting
      • Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) Participation
      • Expand the Scope and Effectiveness of Corporate Strategic and Tactical Planning Efforts


IN THE NEXT POST:   Making Money by Doing Good:  Sustainability's Value Proposition at For-Profit Companies

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