Looking Past The Low-Hanging Fruit

by University Communications,

“Marketing is a strategic function. It’s the method by which I identify rising trends in business,” says Elliot Maltz, Professor of Marketing at Willamette University. “Each time that I have identified a new trend, Atkinson’s deans have been very accommodating and supportive of me developing and delivering a course based on my observations.”

In the past decade, Professor Maltz has introduced courses ranging from Data Mining to Supply Chain Management. In 2009, he introduced Sustainability Management… “to give students the essentials they need to create more sustainable development opportunities, whether they’re going into the public, private, or non-profit sector.”

When to follow. When to lead.

Sustainability management builds on the philosophy that firms should not only consider short-term financial gains for shareholders, but also its impact on the broader society. It is typically measured through the 3 P’s of triple bottom line management: People, Profit and Planet.

At the time of Sustainability Management’s addition in 2009, Maltz noted; “A lot of companies are figuring out that sustainability makes good financial sense. They find that recreating sustainable supply chains actually also reduces costs… There will be a need for change agents to help managers implement this new philosophy of business efficiently and effectively.”

Five years later, Maltz reflects on his prediction; “There has been more interest in people with an understanding of the sustainability view of the world. But the rate of adoption has been significantly slower for two reasons: natural resistance to change, and the financial crisis.”

Once companies pick all the low-hanging fruit in those cost reductions, what’s to motivate them to continue with more advanced sustainability practices?

“The model that I teach suggests that those waste- and cost-reductions generate innovative practices,” Professor Maltz explains. “Once those practices enter company culture and realize real success, some organizations go on to ask questions such as ‘What can we do to generate new revenue opportunities?’ and ‘How can we reduce risk of a catastrophic environmental mistake?’ That’s all very consistent with a well-run firm.”

Current research. Future coursework?

This December, Professor Maltz travels to Chennai, India on a grant from the Center For Asian Studies to continue his work on his new passion, “transformative entrepreneurship” in subsistence markets.

“Many people in the world still struggle just to survive,” Maltz explains. “However, a small percentage actually develop small businesses that help them escape crippling poverty, and give them new opportunities. I want to get a better understanding of what drives these entrepreneurs who have achieved a certain level of financial independence in very poor areas, choose to stay in their communities, and try to leverage their resources to develop other entrepreneurs.”

-Mike Russell, Content Strategist at Pivotal Writing