By Neil Drobny, Program Director, Environment, Economy, Development and Sustainability (EEDS) and Tanis Marquette, Global Sustainabilty Leader, Momentive
During the Spring 2014 semester, Columbus-based Momentive, a global leader in specialty chemicals and materials, partnered with Dr. Neil Drobny’s sustainability in business class for Ohio State EEDS (Environment, Economy, Development and Sustainability) majors to provide students with hands-on business experience. Drobny’s course is a core requirement for EEDS majors.
The students worked on projects designed to assist Momentive frame strategic sustainability initiatives for 15 diverse industry sectors to which Momentive supplies products and services. The framework applied in all projects is relatively new tool known as a “materiality assessment.” Such assessments assist companies to develop a laser-like focus on the key sustainability priorities embedded in specific supplier-customer relationships.
Momentive’s role in the partnership was led by Ms. Tanis Marquette, a division-level Global Sustainability Leader in Momentive. Said Marquette, “As Momentive began implementing its sustainability strategy we looked for innovative ways to reach our key stakeholders. Dr. Drobny’s course, required for all EEDS majors and offered through the Fisher College of Business, provided that unique opportunity. We partnered with Dr. Drobny’s class and dedicated the entire course to Momentive’s Materiality Assessment. The project was a great success for Momentive because the EEDS students were able to surface fresh ideas and perspectives not previously considered by Momentive.”
For Momentive, materiality assessments frame sustainability-related issues such that Momentive’s position on an issue may influence the stakeholder's perception of the product, service, or organization. Materiality assessments, such as those conducted by the EEDS students, provide numerous opportunities to drive sustainability-related value. But most importantly, said Marquette, “It allows Momentive to align its sustainability strategy and facilitate focused discussions on how sustainability influences stakeholders’ decisions and how we can partner with our stakeholders to improve environmental impacts.” Further, it lays the foundation for ongoing stakeholder engagement activities, commented Marquette.
Momentive has stakeholders in more than 20 countries, across dozens of markets, with over 11,000 customers and 8,500 employees. Understanding sustainability issues across regions and stakeholder groups, and the opportunities and challenges within each one, is intrinsic to Momentive’s business strategy.
A total of 47 EEDS students worked in teams of three or four, with each team doing an in-depth assessment of an assigned market sector that is a key Momentive stakeholder. Through this partnership with OSU, the students learned how to conduct a materiality assessment, investigate publically available sustainability information on individual companies and market segments, and then map the “maturity” of the market they investigated.
The maturity maps provide specific direction to Momentive on the strengths and opportunities known about a stakeholder company or market and identifies challenges Momentive may become a partner in solving. The maturity maps, together with the materiality assessments, will guide the company's stakeholder engagement communication plans. Skills in using materiality assessments and maturity maps, which are cutting-edge strategic tools, will equip students to enter the job market with an important competitive advantage.
In addition to the development of strategically focused communication plans for Momentive’s key stakeholders, the students (in and of themselves a key stakeholder group) provided Momentive with valuable insight as to how young consumers view Momentive, its products, and the opportunities within the markets where Momentive products are sold. In Drobny’s opinion, Momentive’s partnership with Ohio State “exemplifies the type of collaboration that is very much needed to prepare students for seamless transition into the workforce.”
Student feedback on the course was likewise very positive. Said one student, “I really enjoyed this project even though it could be insanely difficult at times. I don’t think any other college project has challenged me this much, but I learned so much and really discovered that I am 100% passionate about this kind of work. Thanks for a great semester!”
The EEDS major is a multi-disciplinary degree program offered jointly by the School of Environment and Natural Resources (SENR) and the Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics (AEDE). Additional partners include the Fisher College of Business; Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering; City and Regional Planning; International Studies; Center for Resilience; John Glenn School of Public Affairs; and the President’s and Provost’s Council on Sustainability.
EEDS focuses on the human, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainability. The program provides the core knowledge and skills students need to launch a career in sustainability in the private, public or non-profit sectors. Students in the program can choose to specialize in one of four areas: sustainability and business, environmental economics and policy analysis, community development, or international development.
Image: EEDS students Peter Moshier, Alyssa O’Connor and Nick Julian presenting their findings related to the transportation sector at the end of the semester.
May 6, 2014