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Americans Want Environmentally Sustainable Businesses

Americans believe that U.S. business leaders must understand how to manage business in an environmentally sustainable manner to remain globally competitive, a new national study finds.

The key to achieving this goal, a large majority said, is educating today’s executives as well as tomorrow’s leaders. The “Sustainable Leadership Census” was conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of the University of Wisconsin-Extension.

A vast majority (82 percent) of U.S. adults surveyed agree that educating business executives about sustainable management will help America remain competitive with the rest of the world, while four out of five think company leaders need to learn more about the environment in order to make better decisions.

But there is a knowledge gap. Only 13 percent of respondents are confident that corporate leaders have the knowledge to make decisions that consider long-term impacts on the environment, and only a third (32 percent) of employed respondents reported that their managers have had some training on the subject of sustainable management business practices.

When asked what kind of courses would help executives make environmentally sound decisions, 70 percent picked courses in renewable energy, natural resource management and Triple Bottom Line accounting that measures the business’ impact on people, profit and then planet.

“It’s becoming increasingly apparent that sustainable management is not confined to a limited sector of ‘green sector’ jobs,” said David Schejbal, dean of the University of Wisconsin-Extension continuing education, outreach and e-learning division. “Every job confronts sustainability issues. All current and future managers across every business discipline will have to be environmentally literate.”

The Council of Environmental Deans and Directors (CEDD)sees the survey as a call to increase the diversity of environmental programs as much as possible to prepare students for the wide range of jobs that require this knowledge to succeed. It’s equally important, the CEDD said, to provide increased access and flexibility to deliver relevant environmental and sustainability programs to returning adult students.

The need for environmentally sustainable management affects small businesses and large ones equally.

“The economic landscape is radically changing in ways that redefine business performance and, ultimately, our nation’s prosperity,“ Schejbal said. “Imagine a day when water isn’t free; when emitting any pollutant costs money; when today’s incentive becomes tomorrow’s tax. When that say arrives — and it will — the businesses that have prepared their management teams will prosper.”

Schejbal believes that business will rise to meet the challenge.

“I have a lot of faith in the market,” he told BusinessNewsDaily. “When things become expensive, companies have a habit of adjusting accordingly.”

This article was provided by BusinessNewsDaily, a sister site to LiveScience.