ENVR E-599A: Consulting with Clients for Sustainability Solutions Capstone

The course imparts knowledge and skills for planning sustainability projects and developing solutions for organizations of at least 50 employees including small businesses, nonprofits, or local townships. Sustainability solutions refers to working with a client either as a member of a team or individually developing and delivering a customized sustainability action plan (SAP). Common client goals are reduction of operating costs, minimization of the environmental footprint, and improvement of environmental sustainability practices. Opportunities are identified and initiatives developed in collaboration with the client for both short and long term. Typical areas of focus include energy efficiency, water conservation, waste reduction, supply chain management, green IT, and transportation. In support of recommended initiatives, SAPs emphasize a process to foster sustainable behavior, outline key performance indicators to measure performance, and build a sustainability capital reserve to capture cost savings for possible future investments. Deliverables for the course are a SAP and a presentation to the client stakeholders. A substantial amount of time during the semester is spent on coaching students regarding how to most effectively work with the clients to address organizational requirements, develop solutions, and present SAPs. Sustainability executives and consultants occasionally serve as guest speakers to share experiences and best practices. The case method is utilized to provide a participative and realistic forum enabling students to learn about sustainability while also developing the skills to use the knowledge gained. Whether the SAP is developed for a client by a team or an individual, the course structure enables and ensures evaluation of individual student effort through student reflections and a client satisfaction survey. Past clients have included New York City Department of Sanitation, Greater Pittsburgh YMCA, General Electric Applicances, Utah Center for Affordable Housing, and Amazon.

Prerequisites: Students must be in their final semester as candidates in the Master of Liberal Arts, Sustainability or Ecosystems. They must have completed all the course work for the program, including completion of the analytical skills requirement. They must have earned a satisfactory score on the test of critical reading and writing skills or a B or higher grade in the alternative expository writing course. Finally, students must have their consulting topics pre-approved by Mr. Will O'Brien. For approval, please visit the SEM portal to review the documents and submit the required information to Mr. O'Brien between June 15 and July 15. Students should not delay and should not wait until July as there is much to discuss to ensure a successful capstone. Students who do not meet these requirements are dropped from the course.


William O'Brien




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Course ID: 

14533; 24425

Research Areas: 

  • [Course titles in brackets] indicate that the course is not scheduled to be taught during the 2018-2019 academic year, but may be offered in an alternate year.
  • An asterisk (*) before a course number indicates that a student must obtain the instructor's permission in order to enroll in the course.

Harvard University
Center for the Environment

Address: 26 Oxford Street, 4th Floor, Cambridge
Phone: (617) 495-0368

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