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Master of Sustainability Management

The Master of Sustainability Management program prepares students to accelerate an organization’s sustainability efforts by providing contextual knowledge and practical management skills while emphasizing best practices to “lead from wherever you are” in the organizational structure. Students will have the opportunity to develop strategies for making the business case for sustainability, including advancing an organization’s sustainability goals, embedding sustainability within an organization’s overall strategy, and measuring the economic, environmental, and social impacts of an organization’s sustainability initiatives.

Through courses in business strategy, climate change, global supply chains, sustainable finance, and sustainability reporting, students will discover approaches to integrating environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria into every aspect of an organization’s business model, strategy, and operations. Students will also explore topics that are increasingly important in the context of sustainability, including stakeholder engagement, business and human rights, environmental justice, and diversity, equity, and inclusion. 

Learning Outcomes

Evaluate the impact of a broad range of social, environmental, economic, human-rights, and diversity issues on business and society.

Develop a culture for employees to bring their whole selves to work, and thrive around shared sustainability values.

Integrate sustainability into an organization’s purpose, strategy, and operations in order to better manage risk, find new business opportunities, and assure responsible governance.

Demonstrate the ability to engage with external stakeholders to incorporate their needs and perspectives into business strategy and sustainability reporting.


A Master of Sustainability Management requires 24 units of coursework offered in the fall, spring, and summer semesters. ​The program may be completed on a 1- or 2-year track. Students attending the program on the 1-year track can earn the degree within 12 months and those on the 2-year track can complete the program in 24 months or less.

Our curriculum was designed by academic experts and industry leaders at the forefront of sustainability who are shaping the direction of the field every day. USC Dornsife’s experienced faculty will prepare you to advance in your profession and will give you increased confidence in your skills that will serve you throughout your career.

SMGT 500 – Introduction to Sustainability

This course will introduce students to key concepts that illustrate the history and evolution of sustainability, including definitions, models, and policies relevant to current global sustainability and advocacy.

In this course you will:

  • Examine the challenges in defining sustainability both in the past and present.
  • Critique the complex problem of forecasting sustainability, both from a historical and modern perspective.
  • Analyze historical and present sustainability issues such as land use, farming, water rights, and energy use from the point of view of multiple, diverse stakeholders.
  • Evaluate historical case studies in which unsustainable practices led to societal collapse, to identify crucial intervention points for current sustainability policy.
  • Develop strategies for transitioning to sustainable practices

SMGT 505 – Sustainability Fundamentals

This course covers the evolution of business sustainability; environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance; and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In this course you will:

  • Examine how sustainability has been embedded in business conduct over time, given social, environmental, economic, human-rights, and diversity issues in business and society.
  • Analyze how a firm integrates sustainability measures to meet different stakeholders’ needs to remain socially responsible and create long-term value.
  • Investigate the connections between business purpose, strategy, and operations and the grand challenges encapsulated in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • Evaluate how business activities impact and/or are impacted by environmental, social, and governance (ESG) sustainability challenges.
  • Assess how firms report their sustainability activities within the ESG framework and the Sustainable Development Goals in order to better manage risk, find new business opportunities, and assure responsible governance.

SMGT 510 – Business Strategy for a Sustainable World

Students will explore business strategies, practices, and performance metrics that champion sustainability as part of organizational purpose.

In this course you will:

  • Determine how the agendas among regulators, businesses, and civil society may influence the transformation of business purpose, strategy, and sustainability reporting.
  • Evaluate leadership approaches for applying sustainability values that will allow employees across an organization to better manage risk, discover new business opportunities, and adhere to responsible governance. 
  • Interpret key metrics used by organizations to reflect a focus on the needs of external stakeholders in business strategy and sustainability performance reporting.
  • Recommend strategies for integrating sustainability values into business models and existing organizational practices that will allow employees to thrive.

SMGT 515 – Leading Organizational Transformation for Sustainability

This course examines organizational transformation through integration of sustainability into values, culture, leadership, talent, workflow, and strategy.

In this course you will:

  • Formulate key change steps for sustainability transformation in response to broad-ranging societal and environmental impacts.
  • Analyze sustainability change frameworks to consider possible implementation strategies for business adoption.
  • Evaluate leadership attributes and sustainability values for building organizational cultures of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) and business innovation.
  • Design implementable sustainability workflow plans communicating organizational values, purpose, workplace culture, and business missions.
  • Create authentic sustainability advocacy plans for engaging cultural leadership from all organizational levels.

SMGT 520 – Sustainable Supply and Global Value Chains

Students will explore sustainable management of supply chains and global value chains to increase benefits to business, the environment, and society.

In this course you will:

  • Appraise global value chains (GVCs) and their impact on organizational risk and opportunity, as well as responsible governance.
  • Critique the environmental and social impacts of an organization’s purpose, strategy, and operations within GVCs.
  • Evaluate the needs and perspectives of different stakeholders on GVC strategy.
  • Assess initiatives that integrate sustainability as a core value within organizational purpose, strategy, and operations.
  • Design procedures and practices, taking into consideration external stakeholders’ views and positions, to increase the economic, social, and environmental value of global supply chains. 

SMGT 525 – The Circular Economy and Sustainable Design

This course covers the interrelationship of circular economy and sustainable design strategies to reduce waste and negative social and environmental impacts.

In this course you will:

  • Appraise principles of circular economy and sustainable design, including definitions, concepts, main features, and stakeholder engagement.
  • Evaluate the complexity of both the theory and practice of the circular economy and sustainable design, including their ethical, political-economic, technical, environmental, social, management, international, and policy aspects.
  • Apply the topics of circular economy and sustainable design to an organization’s purpose, strategy, and operations.
  • Explain the impacts of circular economy and sustainable design to external stakeholders with consideration to their needs and perspectives.

SMGT 530 – Sustainable Finance and Capital Markets

Students will examine sustainable investment and finance strategies for both investors and companies.

In this course you will:

  • Develop environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investment strategies that outline rationale for investing in firms.
  • Integrate impact measurement and integrated reporting metrics into corporate strategies and business models.
  • Integrate financial and societal views in managing impact investing funds and filtering investment opportunities.
  • Evaluate ESG financing and investing sources to achieve stakeholder objectives and gain competitive advantage.
  • Investigate how corporate governance, government regulations, and taxation impact companies’ behavior toward ESG financing.

SMGT 535 – Business Strategies for Addressing Climate Change

This course covers principles of climate science and the role of business in mitigating the effects of a changing climate.

In this course you will:

  • Analyze the basic physical process of global warming and the primary ways business activity has contributed to global warming.
  • Evaluate how a changing climate can impact business operations as well as natural and ecological systems.
  • Judge which populations are likely to be at higher risk of climate impacts.
  • Develop business strategies and partnerships that can place businesses in a leadership position to address climate change and the social inequities that arise from a changing climate.
  • Measure the climate impacts of business decisions.

SMGT 540 – Sustainability Strategies for Human Rights

Students will explore strategies for businesses to address a range of human rights concerns and monitor their effects on individuals, society, and the environment.

In this course you will:

  • Evaluate business strategies to protect, respect, and remedy human rights of employees, supply chain workers, and community members.
  • Design sustainable global business models that alleviate poverty, reduce inequality, preserve ecosystems, and build strong communities and institutions.
  • Formulate multisectoral collaborations for coordinated responses, scaling up of sustainable solutions, and monitoring and disclosure of impacts.
  • Assess how social entrepreneurship and innovation alleviate poverty at the base of the pyramid in sustainable ways.
  • Propose human rights management and reporting practices aligned with global disclosure standards.

SMGT 545 – Systems Thinking and Tools for Sustainability

This course will introduce the application of systems theory, thinking, and tools to address complex sustainability-related problems.

In this course you will:

  • Evaluate systems perspectives on sustainability and how they integrate with the quadruple bottom line and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
  • Create sustainability models that can aid in policy development for organizations and nations for positive social, environmental, and economic change.
  • Apply the principles of systems thinking to complex, integrative sustainability strategies, standards, and reporting.
  • Evaluate the interrelationship between systems thinking, sustainability, and our everyday lives, and how our individual tools can be deployed to lead to a more sustainable world.

SMGT 550 – Sustainability Metrics and Reporting

Students will examine strategies for organizations to identify, measure, and report on prioritized sustainability issues.

In this course you will:

  • Evaluate key internal and external stakeholders in the disclosure and reporting processes.
  • Develop materiality assessments to identify environmental, social, and governance (ESG) priorities.
  • Design key ESG performance metrics material to industry, regional, and international contexts.
  • Critique existing sustainability reports and frameworks.
  • Investigate best practices and trends in sustainability reporting.

SMGT 555 – Sustainability Management Strategy Capstone

This course covers the knowledge and skills gained throughout the MSM program, which are synthesized in a culminating capstone project.

In this course you will:

  • Apply the full range of concepts, tools, and frameworks from the program to integrate sustainability into an organization’s purpose, business strategy, and culture.
  • Evaluate the impact of social, economic, and environmental problems to identify strategic business opportunities and assure responsible governance.
  • Design a sustainability strategy to realize both societal and business objectives.
  • Justify why the pursuit of positive societal impact makes sense from a business’s long-term strategic perspective.
  • Develop a strategic business proposal for a sustainable innovation initiative that incorporates the needs and perspectives of key internal and external stakeholders.
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