Published: May 8, 2011


Leeds School of Business

University of Colorado at Boulder

Values-Driven Entrepreneurs Building a Sustainable World


The Leeds School of Business has a long-standing commitment to sustainable business practices that stretches back more than 20 years. The Leeds School believes that environmental stewardship and social responsibility are consistent with running a profitable business. Indeed, a central message underlying the entrepreneurial emphasis of the school is that enormous opportunities exist to “do well by doing good” in environmental, social, and ethical terms, all while maintaining and enhancing economic sustainability.

The Leeds School’s overarching goal with its sustainability initiatives is to educate and inspire students to become values-driven leaders who create sustainable businesses and develop new innovative models that transform how we do business in all sectors. It is noteworthy that a broad array of Leeds’ business partners, such as the natural and organic products industry in Boulder, the sustainable real estate development community, and the burgeoning Colorado renewable energy industry, have all contributed significantly to the realization of this goal. In addition, local and nationally-recognized, values-driven business leaders are woven into the Leeds educational experience; students regularly engage with such leaders in the classroom and the workplace through projects, speaking engagements, and internships.

Leeds students benefit from the wide array of sustainability activities at CU-Boulder, which nicely complement their sustainability-oriented coursework at the Leeds School. The CU campus was recently named the #1 US green campus by Sierra Magazine; is top-ranked as a sustainable campus by the Sustainable Endowments Institute; and was selected to be an Ashoka Changemaker campus for its interdisciplinary program on social entrepreneurship.

A Collaborative Approach

Sustainability is a collaborative effort at the Leeds School, combining the efforts of the Center for Education on Social Responsibility (CESR), the Deming Center for Entrepreneurship, and the Real Estate Center, as well as the efforts of individual faculty members and divisions. CESR focuses its efforts on promoting a discussion of values and on corporate social responsibility; the Deming Center specializes in environmental, food, and energy sustainability; and the Real Estate Center a leader in the integration of

sustainable principles into into real estate and development. The Real Estate Center’s Initiative for Sustainable Development provides partnerships, advisory services, research and teaching.

Together, these organizations and the faculty of the Leeds School offer a full spectrum of opportunity for students seeking to immerse themselves in learning about social and environmental challenges in business settings. Courses of study and experiential opportunities involving sustainability are available to graduate and undergraduate students alike.

The Undergraduate Program

Leeds offers a top-notch, innovative program that exposes undergraduates to issues of ethics, social responsibility and sustainability by integrating these topics into the entire undergraduate curriculum required of all students. In their foundational freshman course, Introduction to Business, students are introduced to concepts of corporate responsibility and sustainability. Business Applications of Social Responsibility follows in the junior year and a senior seminar caps the students’ exposure to both social and environmental sustainability. In addition to these core courses, students can take elective courses such as:

Leadership Challenges: Exercises in Moral Courage

Business Solutions for the Developing World: Learning through Service

Sustainable Operations

Accounting/Finance Energy Seminar

The Business Role in Meeting Environmental Challenges


Students also have the opportunity to take related courses listed in the CU Boulder catalog and to engage in joint projects with engineering students who are engaged in the study of sustainability.

The MBA Program

The MBA core includes a course in ethics and corporate social responsibility, the Socially Responsible Enterprise, and students may create a sustainability portfolio with elective courses. MBA students can choose among the following sustainability-oriented electives offered within the Leeds School:

Sustainable Business

Survey of Best Practices in Sustainable Real Estate Development

Sustainable Venturing

Social Entrepreneurship in Emerging Markets

Commercializing Renewable Energy Technologies


At both the undergraduate and MBA levels student teams have the opportunity to collaborate with business partners and students from other schools on the C.U. campus on real-world projects. In addition, they can choose from numerous other sustainability-oriented courses at CU Boulder for their elective courses. The Leeds School also offers a combined MBA/MS degree in partnership with the CU Environmental Studies program.

Center for Education on Social Responsibility (CESR)

The purpose of CESR, is to advance the Leeds School’s commitment to preparing future leaders to confront the social, environmental, and ethical challenges, as well as the economic issues, faced by modern business. This mission is consistent with the intent of the Leeds family endowment that named our school. CESR promotes the discussion of values and the role of business in society throughout the curriculum. It designs required and elective courses that challenge students to evaluate business behavior along environmental, social, and ethical dimensions. These courses ask students to decide what type of business leaders they will seek to be and the nature of businesses they will run.

CESR is responsible for the required, foundational courses on social responsibility at the undergraduate and graduate levels and has developed key modules for these courses dedicated to discussion of social and environmental sustainability. In addition, CESR works with other departments and programs to develop and deliver sustainability content across the curriculum.

The Deming Center for Entrepreneurship

The Robert H. and Beverly A. Deming Center for Entrepreneurship was founded in 1995, and adopted the tagline of “Entrepreneurs pioneering a sustainable world” in 2005 to represent its commitment to sustainable entrepreneurship. Deming Center programs offer tomorrow’s entrepreneurial leaders an entrée into the fast-changing world of sustainable business opportunities, with a focus on the growing fields of clean technology and renewable energy. Students build on a rigorous foundation of skills and a network of creative entrepreneurs to help them put their ideas into practice.

In addition to providing courses in sustainable business operations and sustainable entrepreneurship, the Deming Center is also developing case studies on sustainable businesses in fields such as natural products and clean technologies. These cases are being used in mainstream business courses and are available online for use by faculty at other business schools.

Outside of the classroom, the Deming Center founded and runs the commercialization arm of RASEI, the Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute run jointly by CU-Boulder and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory . The Center recently launched a series of RETool executive development workshops covering topics on renewable energy business, policy, and technology. The Center also runs the Organic Business Initiative, an industry partnership with leaders in the natural and organic products business.

The Deming Center co-founded the annual Sustainable Opportunities Summit in 2006, and cohosts the event with CORE and the City of Denver. As part of the Summit, the Deming Center runs the Cleantech Venture Challenge that brings together student teams from around the world to share their venture-grade cleantech business plans.

The Real Estate Center

The University of Colorado Real Estate Center was founded in 1996 to establish an academic program for real estate education and research. The program has been concerned with sustainable development since its earliest years. The Center recently created the Initiative for Sustainable Development specifically to promote best practices in sustainable land use and real estate development.

For undergraduates, the Center provides coursework in principles of real estate, real estate development, real estate finance, real estate law, and an academic internship. For MBA students, the Center provides coursework in real estate development, best practices in sustainable real estate development, real estate finance, real estate law, real estate economics, and project competition.

The Real Estate Center is also actively involved in a variety of both academic and industry oriented research projects, including Vail Resorts research to develop a “green development standards” handbook and database. The Center links students with internship opportunities and provides networking and job placement assistance.

Teaching sustainability across traditional business school boundaries

In addition to their own specific offerings, CESR, the Deming Center, and the Real Estate Center have built bridges to establish collaborative initiatives that cross traditional business school boundaries. For example, CESR and the Deming Center coordinate efforts on “values-driven entrepreneurship” to support not only social entrepreneurship but also the integration of values and sustainability principles into business models and practices. In 2010 CESR along with ICOSA Magazine, in collaboration with the Deming Center, cohosted a conference for business students in local universities on Conscious Capitalism.

The Real Estate Center’s 2009 conference on Climate Change and the New Frontiers of Urban Development was also cosponsored by the Deming Center. All three groups offer mentoring programs and share resources and ideas, preparing students for employment in the rapidly expanding field of sustainable business.

Opportunities for Student Involvement

Beyond the classroom, Leeds students can become involved in sustainability initiatives in a wide variety of ways. Examples include:


• Cleantech Venture Challenge

• Sustainable Opportunities Summit (SOS)

• Net Impact Case Competition

• Naturally Boulder networking nights

Student groups

• CU Energy Club

• Net Impact Club

• Organic Business Initiative Student Group

Other activities

• Mentoring and internships in sustainability-oriented firms

• Case studies and consulting projects for sustainable businesses and social ventures