The USC Wrigley Institute for Environment and Sustainability (WIES) has launched its first standalone graduate program, a Master of Sustainability Management (MSM) degree. The program is offered through USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences and USC Online, the University of Southern California’s industry-leading graduate education platform tailored to the needs of full-time workers.
“Most businesses have moved away from thinking about sustainability as a nice-to-have and embraced the fact that it’s essential to long-term competitiveness and profitability,” said Dr. Joe Árvai, Director of the Wrigley Institute for Environment and Sustainability. “But these businesses are struggling to find talented employees with advanced training in sustainability to fill key roles. The Wrigley Institute for Environment and Sustainability’s Master of Sustainability Management was designed to address that challenge.”
The rising need for workers with sustainability skills (sometimes called “green” skills) is quickly outpacing supply. In fact, the share of jobs requiring green skills is growing at double the rate of green talent in the workforce. And as climate change continues to impact almost every aspect of organizational operations–from supply chains to insurance needs, energy costs, product design, and more–the demand for sustainability-focused leaders in every sector is only going to increase.
To fill the gap, WIES’s MSM program is designed to help participants incorporate sustainability principles into their jobs, regardless of their role within an organization.
“Most master of sustainability programs focus on training individuals to be effective as part of a dedicated sustainability team within an organization. The MSM program’s mantra of ‘lead from wherever you are in the organization’ is unique,” says John Viera, executive in residence at the University of Michigan’s Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise and former global director of sustainability and vehicle environmental matters for Ford Motor Co.
Viera served as part of a committee of industry leaders who helped the Wrigley Institute design the new MSM Their primary goal was to create a program that will equip students for rapid sustainability impact.
“This is especially pertinent for a program that’s tailored to full-time workers,” Viera says. “Their learnings will be immediately and directly useful to their current employers.”
The Wrigley Institute’s own mission is to approach environmental and sustainability issues through an interdisciplinary lens, with diversity, equity, and inclusion integrated into all aspects of the institute’s work. Accordingly, the MSM program defines sustainability from a broad, interdisciplinary perspective that takes into account not just business operations but also employee wellbeing and social impact. Overall, the program is designed to shepherd students toward four primary learning outcomes:
- Evaluate the impact of a broad range of social, environmental, economic, human-rights, and diversity issues on business and society
- Integrate sustainability into an organization’s purpose, strategy, and operations in order to better manage risk, find new business opportunities, and assure responsible governance
- Develop a culture for employees to bring their whole selves to work, and thrive around shared sustainability values
- Demonstrate the ability to engage with external stakeholders to incorporate their needs and perspectives into business strategy and sustainability reporting.
As a fully online program, the MSM is open to students from anywhere in the U.S., as well as international enrollees. Participants can choose to complete the degree in either one or two years. Courses address topics such as fundamentals of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) frameworks and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals; leading organizational change for sustainability; sustainable supply chains, finance, and capital markets; the circular economy; sustainability metrics and reporting; and the intersection of sustainability and human rights. WIES and USC Online are currently accepting applications for the program’s first cohort, which will begin in January 2024.
“As an institute, one of our most important responsibilities is to train environmental and sustainability leaders who will go out into the world and make a difference for our planet at scale,” says Joe Árvai. “I’m very excited to open the door on this new opportunity to multiply our impact.”