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Student Experiences

Cultivating Corporate Stewardship

Inside the Classroom

Nearly 100 students at BYU Marriott took the challenge to make a major lifestyle change during January 2024. But these modifications—including shifting to a vegan or vegetarian diet, adjusting home utility use, or going car-free for a month—weren’t driven by New Year’s resolutions. They were part of an assignment for Global Supply Chain Management (GSCM) 414: Introduction to Sustainable Business.

String shopping bag with variety of vegetables and spices

Available to any business student, GSCM 414 addresses how to find creative solutions to sustainability problems faced by businesses. “The class gives students the framework they need to see business through the lenses of economic, environmental, and social sustainability,” says GSCM professor Bekki Brau. “All three perspectives will be essential in the future of business.”

In the first weeks of class, students are asked to identify one action or habit they can alter. “The exercise makes you look at your own life and start thinking about the changes you would have to make to live more sustainably,” says Jaeden Cook, a Seattle native and the course’s teaching assistant. “Corporations are on a whole different scale. If you’re telling them to completely change their entire receiving system, that’s a really big task. Seeing how sustainable transitions apply in your own life can help you understand those tricky business transitions.”

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Through courses like GSCM 414, students are learning more about stewardship and are pushing the boundaries of corporate responsibility.
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In addition to applying principles of sustainability personally, students in GSCM 414 are helping the larger sustainability effort on campus. Brau has partnered with the BYU Sustainability Office to have student teams help create the Sustainable BYU 2030 Plan. “The plan will include goals, metrics, initiatives, and actionable steps for being more environmentally and socially sustainable on campus,” she says. “I want the students to serve a real and present need.”

Brau also invites guest speakers to talk about sustainability in their unique fields. Lindsey Schwab, who works in supply chain at Walmart, emphasized to the class that both businesses and communities have a strong interest in sustainable practices but lack the infrastructure to support them.

Brau’s students learn about companies that are stepping up to help create this infrastructure. For example, the course includes a case study of HP in Canada, which began collecting empty ink cartridges from customers and refilling them.

“The status quo is a cradle-to-grave perspective: a product starts with raw materials, moves through production and transportation, and ultimately ends up in a landfill once it’s done being used, whether it has more life to give or not,” Brau says. What HP has done is create a closed-loop supply chain. “Now the used product—instead of sitting in a landfill—can be repaired, reused, refurbished, or recycled within the supply chain and have life again.”

Through courses like GSCM 414, students are learning more about stewardship and are pushing the boundaries of corporate responsibility. “We’re really trying to question the status quo in sustainability,” Brau says, “to think critically and to continue asking, ‘How can we change things for the better?’”


Written by Melissa Een