Glenn Hoetker appointed MBS Foundation Chair of Sustainability and Business
Some people think of sustainability as a set of values, but for Professor Glenn Hoetker it has more to do with the way organisations generate value.
"One definition of sustainability I like is fulfilling our needs today without compromising the ability of future generations to do the same," says Glenn, who was recently appointed as the inaugural MBS Foundation Chair of Sustainability and Business.
"I see sustainability for business as mostly about value – not values – which means firms looking to achieve the best trade-off in terms of revenue, cost, risk and social value in light of sustainability."
Glenn's goals in the newly-created chair are to help organisations achieve sustainability while remaining profitable and to make sustainability a core part of the Melbourne Business School experience. To do so, he'll work to integrate sustainability into the School's teaching, research and outreach.
"My personal goal within five years is to make sure that every MBS student will be as familiar with sustainability as they are with finance, marketing or any other aspect of being an effective manager," Glenn says.
"If we teach managers how and why to engage with sustainability, we will produce better business and move business towards what society needs it to be today."
With the expectations of employees, customers and regulators becoming more demanding, Glenn says sustainability is no longer an option for leaders.
"If you don't incorporate sustainability into your strategic decision-making, it will lead to destroying value," he says.
"Most companies now recognise that they can't ignore sustainability. But there is a lot of work to be done in understanding what that means strategically for firms, how becoming more sustainable can improve performance and how to put the necessary changes in place."
As part of his new role, Glenn is looking forward to working closely with Melbourne Business School faculty and sustainability experts at the University of Melbourne, including at the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute and Melbourne Energy Institute.
"That's really exciting," he says. "One of the highlights of being at Melbourne Business School is getting to collaborate with Australia's top university. I've already had the opportunity to appear on a panel around innovation with the Vice-Chancellor.
"One of the particular things universities are able to do – and that I want to do more of – is play a convening role for people from all different industries and sectors. We can bring a diverse group of people together on neutral ground and bring some expertise to the table.
"I want to continue doing that work with government, not-for-profits and universities, because while I think that business is critical to solving sustainability challenges – it can't do it by itself."
Glenn has had a varied and multidisciplinary career, holding positions including International Program Analyst at NASA and academic appointments at Arizona State University and the University of Illinois.
While at Arizona State, he was named a Senior Sustainability Scholar at the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability and represented the university at the Arizona Solar Summit, a collaborative effort by business, government and academia to advance the state's solar energy industry. He also created one of the only sustainability-related classes in the core curriculum of a US MBA program.
But before any of that, Glenn's interest in the intersection of business and sustainability began while he was growing up in Tuscola, a small farm town in Illinois, USA.
When he was in middle school, his mother and her partner – small business owners who ran an independent grocery store – purchased eight hectares of what at the time was cornfield. Over the next 20 years he was part of converting it into a sustainable homestead.
"We returned half the land to original prairie and built gardens and greenhouses out of recycled and repurposed materials. The house relied on geothermal and passive solar," Glenn says.
"I grew up understanding the challenges of running a business, but also the value of sustainability. Without that history, I wouldn't be as convinced as I am that businesses can flourish while helping create a more sustainable future."