How sustainability practices make for good business practices
DENVER – The ‘green’ movement across the globe isn’t just about government policies and individual choices, it is growing as a concern among small and large companies.
Local business representatives, students, faculty and staff met for breakfast this morning to learn more about sustainability in the business world. The program ‘Getting Green by Going Green’ was hosted by the CU Denver Business School in the Lawrence Street Center, Terrace Room.
Business School Dean Sueann Ambron welcomed this morning’s guests. “Sustainability is part of our plan at the Business School – teaching it and practicing it, too.” She explained that the new Business School at 1475 Lawrence St. was an existing structure renovated with sustainability in mind.
Associate Professor Ken Bettenhausen, PhD, told the group that the Business School offers the largest sustainability business program in Colorado. He recalled the first cohort five years ago had 23 students. Now, the program enrolls an average of 250 students each semester. To pursue the speciality, students can enroll in four of eight different courses offered as electives. The courses emphasize business-related aspects of sustainability such as accounting, project management, marketing and more.
This morning’s program was moderated by business professional Graham Russell who also is an adjunct lecturer in the Business School and a member of the Advisory Council for the Business School’s sustainability program. “We’re now seeing large corporations embracing sustainability, but Wall Street still doesn’t acknowledge it even though it can help drive business decisions.”
Panelist Elizabeth Seeger of the private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Company (KKR) joined the conversation from Washington, D.C., via video conference. While her work focuses on helping her company’s private equity portfolio companies to pursue appropriate sustainability measures, she acknowledged “there is skepticism about financial interests.” For companies participating in the KKR ‘Green Portfolio Program’, Seeger serves as advisor to assist willing partners to identify and realize sustainability goals.
Also joining the conversation was First Data Foundation’s Ellen Sandberg, vice president of community relations. With 25,000 employees worldwide and 1,200 in Denver, Sandberg said her company’s primary sustainability focus is on energy consumption at its data centers. Because First Data manages billions of credit card transactions annually, she said First Data believes sustainability practices are ‘smart business.’ First Data, a leader in providing electronic payment infrastructure, is owned by KKR and is part of its ‘Green Portfolio Program.’