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Nonprofit works to provide sustainability opportunities

Students involved in sustainability efforts at Ohio State will soon have the opportunity to quantify their experiences through a new sustainability certificate program, offered by the Fisher College of Business and Net Impact rolling out this fall.

Focused on the “triple bottom line” of sustainability (economic, social and environmental sustainability), Net Impact is an internationally recognized nonprofit organization with more than 260 chapters worldwide.

Zach Friedman, a fourth-year in marketing and co-creator of OSU’s certificate program, said he saw various sustainability-related clubs and organizations around campus and knew there wasn’t a need for more activities.

“We don’t have to invent opportunities, the opportunities exist,” Friedman said.

Along with co-creator Aaron Alpeter, a fourth-year in logistics management, Friedman’s vision was to create an umbrella program under which students could participate in their respective sustainability-related clubs and organizations in a more universally valuable way.

“It’s essentially matchmaking the right kind of passionate students to the right kind of opportunities and then giving them credit, standardizing it and then marketing that credit to employers,” Alpeter said.

Funding for the certificate program is still being finalized and Friedman said he hopes to involve multiple stakeholders including the Fisher College of Business and the OSU Office of Energy and Environment, as well as individual donors.

Previously offered exclusively to students in the Fisher College of Business industry cluster, the point-based certificate program will give students a “cool and robust experience in sustainability that is really manageable and quantifiable to future employers,” Friedman said.

Students who are accepted to the program will use Carmen to track their status in the program and are awarded points in four different categories: theory, practitioner, project and leadership.

Points can be earned in a variety of ways, allowing students to create their own program based on their sustainability interests.

“Sustainability is this broad, messy, awesome thing that is really hard to define,” Friedman said. “We’re being descriptive of a really good solution instead of prescriptive.”

Sustainability is roughly defined as the long-term maintenance of environmental resources.

Though the certification is new, Friedman said he hopes the program’s partnership with Net Impact and the Fisher College of Business will help give it weight in the business world.

Rao Unnava, associate dean of undergraduate programs in the Fisher College of Business, said the program has potential in the business world.

“If this is executed right and correctly, companies will value the certificate,” Unnava said.

The certificate program will also include a sustainability-related career fair to tell employers about the program and connect students with future employers, Friedman said.

Unnava said he believes sustainability is an important factor for companies to consider and might even determine profits.

“You could be very profitable as a business because you are sustainable,” Unnava said. “Our hope is that people recognize sustainability as something that should be integrated into their everyday thinking.”

After taking an engineering survey class, Peter Worley, a second-year in mechanical engineering, said he knew he wanted to be involved in a campus sustainability movement but didn’t know where to start.

Worley said he found his niche after talking to Friedman about Net Impact and the certificate program.

“This is something I totally want to be a part of and is (somewhere that) I can actually make my impact,” Worley said.

Representatives from the Net Impact headquarters did not respond for comment.

Worley is part of what Friedman calls the “next generation” of Net Impact leaders.

“They’re going to do so much more than I ever could,” Friedman said. “My goal is to empower the next generation of leaders to have a cohort of people and changemakers that are going to make a big difference.”

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