Suzanne Farver: Standing at the pinnacle of sustainable business


By Patricia Marcoccia, Axiom News

Published 8.29.13

As a seasoned sustainability professional, Suzanne Farver watched Presidio Graduate School climb up the graduate school system.

Over the last nine months, the author of Mainstreaming Corporate Sustainability: Using Proven Tools to Promote Business Success has held the unique position of serving on the finance committee of the Presidio Graduate School board of directors, while also instructing in corporate sustainability management at Harvard University Extension School.

Suzanne relishes in her unique perspective and its ability to raise opportunities for meaningful discussion.
What energizes you the most about what you are seeing unfolding in the Presidio Community?

Suzanne: I teach a class at Harvard University Extension School on sustainability. We use the same method which I love about Presidio; most classes are (taught) from a case study standpoint. It’s a lot of work for students. They have to really get engaged with the material. They can’t just read it and regurgitate it at the end of the semester. They have to really apply it. It helps them to understand the material and learn how it works. They get so much more out of it when they come out the other end.

The faculty is also terrific, top-notch, and we’re getting recognition for being top-notch. Now we’ve also got Paul Hawken, who’s a new, exciting addition to the faculty and a longstanding sustainability leader. So we’re obviously attracting the best and generating terrific graduates who are finding leading positions around the country and the world.

What conversation, if begun today, could ripple out in a way that creates new possibilities for the future of this community?

Suzanne: I think telling more stories about what individual graduates are doing. They’re all doing important work, and how do we spread that out to the world? How do we spread that out to everyone so we’re moving out in the same direction, making sustainability part of what businesses are doing every day? How to put that in business financial statements – it’s great to see that this is part of a whole MBA program.

You get so frustrated with policymakers and the federal level to reduce climate change and work with renewable resources. Where we’re really finding success is in businesses, because it saves them money. It’s more energy efficient to invest in your employees and make workplaces more habitable and keep employees, rather than companies having to train new people. By training business leaders how to do this, we’re making it happen regardless of what policymakers are doing. That’s what excites me about sustainability and business.

What commitment do you hold that motivates you to do this work?

Suzanne: Working with a nonprofit is always a challenge. You’re in a group of diverse people with strong opinions. I’ve always loved working with smart people. I love getting to know and meeting new people, learning new ideas and helping to build consensus to work towards a common vision. It can be a real challenge when you have a lot of smart people, but at the same time people are dedicating their time, it’s a delicate balance. I find that interesting and challenging.

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Patricia Marcoccia, Axiom News

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