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Monday, June 08, 2015 at 3pm

Rainforest Alliance President Joins NYU Stern: MBA News

Rainforest Alliance president to direct new research center at NYU Stern

The Rainforest Alliance’s president, Tensie Whelan, has joined the faculty at NYU Stern School of Business to lead in the creation of a new center that will house the school's teaching and research activities in sustainable business.

From the start of next year, the Center for Sustainable Business will provide courses that focus on the environmental and human challenges affecting business and society in the modern world:

“More and more, society and consumers expect companies to address social and environmental issues in their business models. Corporations, in turn, are seeking new employees who come ready to innovate and contribute. As educators, we have a responsibility to help our students develop their perspectives and skills to meet this new reality,” said NYU Stern professor, Bruce Buchanan. Since 1993, Buchanan has headed up the school’s Business and Society Program – through which courses spanning everything from CSR to ethical leadership are offered.

Whelan to ‘lead by example’ on sustainable business issues

The new center, however, will allow the school to expand its current resources with regards to sustainable business – with teaching activities set to be underpinned by research and conventions that bring together companies and stakeholders looking to instigate positive change in the field.

Tensie Whelan, who has taken Rainforest Alliance’s budget from US$4.5 million to US$50 million in her time as president, will become the center’s director and is described by NYU Stern’s dean, Peter Henry, as “the ideal role model to lead by example on issues that are critical to long-term prosperity and economic growth.”

The Rainforest Alliance, an NGO which provides third-party certification in forestry, agriculture and tourism for those who meet biodiversity and sustainability standards, was cofounded in 1986 by Daniel Katz - an MBA alumnus of NYU Stern.  Whelan, meanwhile, took her undergraduate degree in political science at NYU, before earning a master’s from the School of International Service (SIS) at Washington DC’s American University.

Her role as director of the center is to focus on developing courses, together with existing NYU Stern faculty, that seek an emphasis on experiential learning. In this, her extensive links to business practitioners and civil society organizations are bound to come in handy. Engaging companies on the importance of taking sustainable business approaches has seen the Rainforest Alliance work with 5,000 companies in 60 countries under Whelan’s presidency, for instance. She also currently serves on the advisory boards of Social Accountability International and Corporate Eco Forum and is the editor of a book on ecofriendly tourism, Nature Tourism: Managing for the Environment.

In explaining her decision to join NYU Stern, Whelan said that the school’s philosophy – of pursuing value creation for both business and society – matched her own, adding that through “its prime location in New York, home to the financial sector, Silicon Alley, the UN and NGOs, Stern has an unprecedented opportunity to drive this conversation.”

Earlier this year, Stern’s fellow New Yorkers, Columbia Business School, also moved to increase its capacities for students looking to address environmental or societal challenges, with the creation of a new hub for social enterprise.                                                                  

Tim is a writer with a background in consumer journalism and charity communications. He trained as a journalist in the UK and holds degrees in history (BA) and Latin American studies (MA).