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Elements of Sustainability Series

Sunlight shining through a forest

Elements of Sustainability Series: Empowering You to Become an Agent of Change

All Online Lectures Available to Watch Now

In honor of Earth Day, The Dow Chemical Company and the Erb Institute of University of Michigan are partnered to host the inaugural Elements of Sustainability Series. Embedded sustainability efforts as part of a company’s strategy are imperative for business success, with the value at stake from sustainability concerns as high as 70 percent of earnings.1 This series combines sustainability fundamentals and business insights to help you integrate sustainability into your day-to-day decisions at work and at home.

The sustainability challenges facing society today are so complex, it’s impossible for any organization, institution or individual to tackle single-handedly. In order to truly advance sustainability, we must all come together to leverage our strengths. The Elements of Sustainability Series aims to empower individuals with knowledge by catalyzing the power of collaboration with universities, organizations and the brightest minds dedicated to creating a more sustainable planet.

Seven renowned academics offer online presentations covering topics shaping the sustainability landscape. The online event is free and open to anyone with an interest in learning the fundamentals of sustainability. Scroll down for the links to these exciting lectures, and to learn more. And bookmark this page, because this content will be available until Earth Day 2019.


Disclaimer: These presentations are provided in good faith for informational purposes only. These presentations represent the views, opinions and recommendations of the presenters. Dow and the presentation sponsors assume no obligation or liability.

Our Lectures:

Sara Soderstrom

A Brief History of Sustainability and Business Transformation
April 16

Dr. Sara Soderstrom
University of Michigan, Assistant Professor, Organizational Studies and Program in the Environment

During this session, Dr. Soderstrom will introduce the triple-bottom line framework that underpins sustainability and brings attention to economic, social, and environmental priorities. Corporate sustainability is "in vogue" at the moment, which makes it easy to forget that this role of business in addressing environmental and social issues is a relatively recent phenomenon. Through a historical review of the sustainability movement, we will explore the changing relationship between business and the environment, and discuss the role of government, activists, and consumers in influencing corporate activities. We will end with a view of how corporations can play a critical role in addressing societal challenges – moving us all towards sustainability.

Learn More About the Speaker
Dr. Sara Soderstrom studies how corporations engage in societal sustainability challenges and how individuals within organizations mobilize others, develop coalitions, and access key decision makers when they are trying to implement sustainability initiatives. Dr. Soderstrom was a Post Doctoral Fellow at the Erb Institute at the University of Michigan. She completed her PhD at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University. She holds MSE degrees in Chemical and Environmental Engineering and a BSE degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Michigan.

 Follow Dr. Sara Soderstrom on Twitter

Presentation Sponsored By: APTIV


Jeremiah Johnson

Reducing Environmental Impacts Using Life Cycle Assessment
April 16

Dr. Jeremiah Johnson
NC State, Associate Professor, Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering

Improving environmental outcomes requires systems approaches that consider impacts that extend beyond a factory or company's walls. By using life cycle assessment (LCA), companies can identify the best opportunities to reduce environmental impacts, informing decisions relating to material choice, supply chains, production processes, in-use impacts, and end of life management. Relying on new insights from LCA, companies can prioritize their efforts in meeting their sustainability goals and achieve meaningful change.

Learn More About the Speaker
Dr. Jeremiah Johnson is an associate professor at North Carolina State University's Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering and part of the Chancellor’s Faculty Excellence Program in Sustainable Energy Systems and Policy. His research uses systems methods to evaluate the environmental impacts of changes to the power system, including those driven by technology. He earned degrees in environmental engineering from Yale University (PhD, MS) and in chemical engineering from Clarkson University (BS).

 Follow Dr. Jeremiah Johnson on Twitter

Presentation Sponsored By: L'Oreal


Tima Bansal

The Follies of Neoliberalism: A Sustainability-Oriented Approach to Business and Society
April 17

Dr. Tima Bansal

Ivey Business School, Professor, General Management, Sustainability & Strategy

In this session, Dr. Tima Bansal outlines some of the key assumptions made in conventional business strategy, which is grounded in neoclassical economics. However, this worldview is being challenged across a number of fronts, including eroding firm profits. Business strategy is being disrupted by the principles that ground sustainable development. Dr. Bansal will describe the principles of sustainable development and their implications to business strategy, grounding the ideas in some leading business practices.

Learn More About the Speaker
Dr. Bansal is the Canada Research Chair in Business Sustainability at the Ivey Business School at Western University (Ontario). She directs Ivey's research centre for Building Sustainable Value, and founded and continues to direct the Network for Business Sustainability. Both these organizations aim to strengthen research and its ties with practice. She was one of the inaugural “Clean50 for Clean Capitalism” (Delta Management Group in 2011).

  Follow Dr. Tima Bansal on Twitter

Presentation Sponsored By: Dow


Daniel Vermeer

Climate Change: How to Tackle a Wicked Problem
April 18

Dr. Daniel Vermeer
Duke, Executive Director – Center for Energy, Development, and the Global Environment and Associate Professor of the Practice of Energy and Environment

Wicked problems differ from conventional problems by virtue of their complexity, unboundedness, multiple stakeholders, and resistance to resolution. Wicked problems exist in many domains, including environmental degradation, global pandemics, inequality, and nuclear disarmament. Despite the world’s problems becoming increasingly wicked, we still rely heavily on frameworks and tools that were created to address more discrete challenges. In this session, Dr. Vermeer will discuss how methods of design thinking and scenario planning can be productively used to tackle perhaps the world’s most wicked problem: climate change.

Learn More About the Speaker
Dr. Daniel Vermeer directs Duke University's Center for Energy, Development, and the Global Environment (EDGE), an initiative that harnesses the power of business to meet the global demand for energy, resources, and improved quality of life. His areas of expertise include water management, sustainable agriculture, value chain analysis, resource productivity, efficiency, product certification, and low-carbon development. He is the founder of the Global Water Challenge, co-author of the CEO Water Mandate, and lead contributor to policy documents issued through the World Economic Forum, World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and the United Nations Foundation.

  Follow Dr. Daniel Vermeer on Twitter

Read more:


Presentation Sponsored By: Velux


Kaitlin Raimi

Consumer Perceptions and Behavior
April 18

Dr. Kaitlin Raimi
University of Michigan, Assistant Professor of Public Policy

Many sustainability initiatives rely on individual consumers being able to recognize more sustainable products and practices and being willing to choose sustainable options. Yet most consumers are not experts in sustainability, do not readily understand sustainability-related indices, and may even avoid sustainable options because they perceive them as running counter to their own identities. How can businesses convey sustainable options to consumers in ways that they can understand and that will appeal to them? This presentation will cover some of the best practices for how to communicate sustainability to consumers and how to avoid common pitfalls.

Learn More About the Speaker
Dr. Kaitlin Raimi is an assistant professor at the University of Michigan's Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. She studies how social motivations promote or prevent sustainable behaviors, especially those related to climate change. She's particularly interested in how people compare their own beliefs and behaviors to those of other people, how the desire to make a good impression can influence people to mitigate climate change, and how one adopting one sustainable behavior affects subsequent environmental decisions. She also has ongoing work on how different ways of framing climate change affect people's attitudes to climate policy.

  Follow Dr. Kaitlin Raimi on Twitter



Joe Arvai

Decision-Making for the Triple-Bottom-Line
April 19

Dr. Joe Arvai
University of Michigan, Max McGraw Professor of Sustainable Enterprise, and the Director of the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan

Decision-making in service of the “triple-bottom-line” (TBL) refers to choices made by individuals and groups that balance social, economic, and environmental objectives. On the one hand, we are often told the story that “people, planet, and prosperity” ought to be treated as equally important, and that we should actively seek win-win-win alternatives when making business decisions. On the other, people who claim to practice the TBL in business tend to point to decisions that they have made in the past, highlighting benefits that they say are in line with social, economic, and environmental goals. But, here’s the thing: Real-world TBL decisions can’t — and shouldn’t — treat social, economic, and environmental objectives equally. So, what are we to do if we want to proactively make decisions that serve the triple-bottom-line?

Learn More About the Speaker
Dr. Joe Arvai is the Max McGraw Professor of Sustainable Enterprise in the School of Natural Resources & Environment, and the Ross School of Business, at the University of Michigan. He also serves as Director of the Frederick A. and Barbara M. Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise. In addition to his position at the U of M, Dr. Arvai is a Senior Researcher at the Decision Science Research Institute in Eugene, OR, and an Adjunct Professor in Engineering and Public Policy at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA. Dr. Arvai is an internationally recognized expert in the risk and decisions sciences. In addition to Dr. Arvai's academic work, he is a former member of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Chartered Science Advisory Board, and is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences’ Board on Environmental Change and Society.

  Follow Dr. Joe Arvai on Twitter

Presentation Sponsored By: Novinum


Andrew Hoffman

The Next Phase of Business Sustainability
April 20

Dr. Andrew Hoffman
University of Michigan, Holcim (US) Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan

Business sustainability has come a long way. From the dawn of the modern environmental movement and the establishment of environmental regulations in the 1970s, it has now become a strategic concern driven by market forces. But problems such as climate change, water scarcity, species extinction, and many others continue to worsen. Sustainable business is reaching the limits of what it can accomplish in its present form. It is slowing the velocity at which we are approaching a crisis, but we are not changing course. Instead of tinkering around the edges of the market with new products and services, business must now transform it.

Learn More About the Speaker
Dr. Andrew Hoffman is the Holcim (US) Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at the University of Michigan; a position that holds joint appointments in the Stephen M. Ross School of Business and the School of Environment and Sustainability. Dr. Hoffman studies the ways that sustainability becomes an issue for business organizations. He has published over 100 articles/book chapters, as well as 15 books, which have been translated into five languages.

  Follow Dr. Andrew Hoffman on Twitter

Read more:




Learn More About the Organizer and Moderator

Erica Ocampo

Erica Ocampo, The Dow Chemical Company, Sustainability Strategy Manager, Global EH&S and Sustainability

Erica Ocampo serves as the sustainability strategy manager for Dow’s Consumer Solutions business. In this role, she focuses on the strategy development across the business to the Dow 2025 Sustainability Goals and manage key external value chain partnerships. She also leads The Dow Sustainability Academy, an employee development program that provides participants with the tools needed to bring sustainability business insights into their day-to-day jobs as well as hands-on experience with a 2025 Sustainability Goals-related project.

Ocampo received a master’s degree in sustainability and environmental management from Harvard University Extension School and a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering from the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology. Ocampo is passionate about sustainability and believes that through science and collaboration, sustainability can be achieved.

 Follow Erica Ocampo on Twitter


ERB Institute Business for Sustainability

About the Frederick A. and Barbara M. Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise

The Erb Institute is the University of Michigan’s business-sustainability partnership between the Ross School of Business and the School for Environment and Sustainability. We work with business leaders to help them improve company competitiveness through enhanced social, environmental and economic performance. Our degree programs prepare students to be future business leaders for sustainability, while our research and executive education prepare current business leaders for what’s next in sustainability.

Elements of
Sustainability Series

Sustainability Commitment
Science for a sustainable world

Dow 2025 Sustainability Goals
Learn about Dow's goals to advance the well-being of the planet and society.