Presidio’s Operations and Production course featured in Financial Times article


By Dwight Collins, MBA Program Chair

Published 2.5.13


Photo by James Ince-Scott.

Presidio’s Operations and Production course was lauded recently for its focus on teaching students Industrial Ecology, a discipline through which students learn how to minimize waste in the production of products and services. In a January 20, 2013 Financial Times article, “The sustainable path to profit: don’t throw out the rubbish,” author Sarah Murray laments how few business schools spend much time promoting courses in waste management, calling out the Presidio Graduate School course as one of the notable exceptions.

As a core faculty member, MBA program chair, and instructor of the Presidio’s Operations and Production course where “IE” is featured, I was pleased with the reference to  Presidio. Indeed we are teaching most of the dimensions of waste management that this article says business schools should be but are not teaching. Industrial symbiosis is featured prominently. In the second week of the course, Ops students read “Uncovering Industrial Symbiosis,” a wonderful 2007 JIE (Journal of Industrial Ecology) paper by Yale’s Dr. Marion Chertow that survey’s examples of industrial symbiosis (also called by-product synergy) around the world. The students do research to find other and newer examples and discuss them in one of our online forums. Another source of significant waste reduction with which students become familiar is designing products to have multiple lives in order to reduce rates of raw material extraction from the earth and increase rates of waste diversion from landfill. Midway through the course, students read  “Turning End of Life Product Reprocessing into a Profit Center at Cisco Systems, Inc.,” a 2009 case study authored by one of Prof. Dariush Rafinejad’s Stanford graduate students under the guidance of Dariush and Dwight (a Core faculty member, Dariush teaches Sustainable Products and Services at the Presidio and in Stanford’s School of Management Science and Engineering). The case study documents how Cisco converted a process of “down cycling” returned product that was costing them $10M per year in 2005 to a much larger flow of product being re-manufactured and resold at a net profit of $100M in 2008.

Through the Ops course-sponsored “factory tour” activity, students have visited a variety of facilities where waste reduction is a top priority. Examples are the Union City plant of American Licorice Company, where the popular Red Vines and other candies are produced (tour arranged by then student Rachel Balsley through her employer,, Hayward based Injex Industries (tour arranged by then student Stephen Davies), manufacturer of interior automobile plastic injection molded ceiling panels and door panels, and Jaco Environmental, de-manufacturer of refrigerators to recycle 98% of their materials including all their ozone depleting gases (tour arranged by Presidio graduate Todd English through the Presidio Capstone start up, EOS Climate).

More recently, the above photo of four of our students ((L to R) Stephanie Ciancio, Ali Peman-Dupier, Dannielle Ginach, and Marlena John) was taken last year at the City of Napa’s Materials Diversion Facility, at a “factory tour” arranged by student Trevor Blythe. The City, who's waste and recycling hauler operates the facility, is a client of Trevor's consulting firm, EcoNomics, Inc. EcoNomics, Inc. is a Del Mar-based waste diversion consulting firm and was founded by William O'Toole, Trevor's mentor and a longtime friend of the Presidio.

Dwight Collins, MBA Program Chair

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