UW Professors Book Explains Potential of Sustainable Enterprise

November 29, 2012
Man smiling
University of Wyoming Associate Professor Mark Peterson’s book examines how businesses can operate as better citizens toward the natural environment and toward communities, while also making a profit.

Businesses everywhere would like to operate as better citizens toward the natural environment and toward communities, but how can they do this and still maintain profitability -- especially in economically challenging times?

Mark Peterson, a College of Business marketing associate professor at the University of Wyoming, has taken the challenge of addressing the question for the current era of business. Peterson explains his findings in “Sustainable Enterprise: A Macromarketing Approach” published this month by SAGE Publications.

Peterson encourages readers to think critically about the opportunities and limitations of business, as well as its positive and potentially negative effects to society. He has found that many businesses, of all sizes, today are competing more effectively when they take a holistic approach to the marketplace by considering the natural environment and people issues in their strategic planning. 

Through the presentation of key research findings and actual company cases, Peterson poses and then answers important questions, including: How do firms use sustainability concepts to navigate their firms in global business today? Why do markets change? How can firms conduct business profitably with the environment in mind? How can firms conduct business profitably with poor consumers in mind?

Based on the premise that firms using holistic marketing strategies are better able to assess risks and identify opportunities, Peterson’s book explains how to create compelling and effective marketing plans designed to benefit the company, key stakeholders and society at large.

Some marketing scholars are taking notice of Peterson’s work and are terming it as “a path-breaking work” and having the “potential to shape future marketing thought.”

“Mark Peterson does a great job of connecting academic frameworks with business practice,” says Ken Manning, marketing professor and First Bank Research Fellow at Colorado State University. “He peppers the book with timely examples of the significant progress that enterprises are making toward achieving sustainability. His perspective separates the book from others and facilitates the connection between day-to-day marketing decision-making and the big picture of how we can be a part of making business better.”

UW Trustee Jim Neiman of Hulett joined students and faculty at a book release gathering earlier this month in the College of Business’s board room. Peterson used the story of Neiman Enterprises Inc. to conclude the chapter of his book on environmentally oriented business.

In 2000, Neiman decide to integrate sustainable business practices into the operations of the firm -- which he inherited from his father -- based in Hulett, a town located in northeast Wyoming just six miles from Devils Tower National Monument. Rather than force his firm to rapidly integrate these sustainable business practices and earn the Sustainable Forestry Initiative’s (SFI) certification, Neiman chose to educate his employees and allow them to adopt the principles of sustainability in their own way during a 10-year period.

Before the employees learned about taking care of the forests in which many of them work, they learned first aid and medical emergency procedures to take care of themselves. Such training reinforced a caring ethic in the hearts of employees and began a process of a deeper culture change in the firm, Peterson says. Neiman Enterprises, Inc. received SFI certification in 2010.

Each chapter of Peterson’s book begins with a vignette that features a living protagonist facing a real-life challenge related to marketing and society. The chapters close with a mini-case called “Mavericks Who Made It” featuring an entrepreneurial figure, such as Neiman.

Some of these come from history, such as Arthur Guinness who founded the Guinness Brewery in Dublin in the 18th century. Others include contemporary profiles of Costco Wholesale and entrepreneurial firms in its network of suppliers.

“The inclusion of these real-life examples leads readers to reflect more effectively on challenges business persons actually encounter in their journeys toward sustainability,” Peterson says.

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