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Manchester Business School uses SAS® to teach sustainability – and help reduce carbon

Manchester Business School has embedded SAS® in its curriculum to bring sustainability issues to life for tomorrow's business leaders - and to help support ambitious targets at The University of Manchester to improve energy efficiency and reduce its carbon footprint by 40 percent.

Home to 'the largest number of innovation researchers in Europe', Manchester Business School (MBS) is the UK's largest campus-based business and management school. In 2011, its 18-month full-time MBA programme was rated third in the world for return on investment (ROI) in Bloomberg Business Week's ranking of the world's best business schools. "We're in the business of breaking down barriers between theory and practice, empowering people with the knowledge to become tomorrow's international business elite," says Michael Luger, Director. Part of that commitment has seen a forward-thinking senior lecturer bring SAS® Analytics into the school, to train second-year students in sustainability issues, change attitudes and improve the University's carbon efficiency. "I led the project to introduce SAS on our three-year Information Technology Management for Business BSC course," says Dr Babis Theodoulidis, Senior Lecturer in Information Management. This course provides a thorough grounding in IT and project management along with entrepreneurial and innovative ways of thinking – all skills that tomorrow's 'low carbon economy' will require.

"Reducing carbon should be a key priority for higher education. Simply put: it's the right thing to do," says Professor Maynard Case, Associate Vice-President for Compliance, Risk and Sustainability, The University of Manchester. "Environmental sustainability is a key priority in the management and development of the University, and we have a clear target to reduce our carbon footprint by at least 40 percent by 2020. Achieving that presents major challenges to a research-intensive University, challenges that demand co-operation and collaboration with similar institutions, geographical neighbours, external agencies and companies. With ICT responsible for around 12 percent of our carbon footprint, we especially value the many forms of support provided by SAS for the Business School, which does so much to encourage sustainable thinking amongst its students."

The challenge: cutting carbon

"My role is strategic, covering both University policies and external targets," says Lucy Millard, Environmental and Sustainability Officer. Responsible for the University's five-year Carbon Management Plan, which was highly praised by the Carbon Trust, she says recent times have seen the wider University community - academics, support staff and students – become more involved in energy and carbon initiatives covering waste, IT, Halls of Residence, procurement and more. A key issue, Millard says, is engaging with students – an area where SAS has delivered notable success. "Dr Theodoulidis originally called me to explain the project he wanted to set-up in the Business School and explore its viability. I was impressed at how much research his team had done, and recognised a great opportunity to reach students at the Business School with our messages. Even today, lots of students arrive at university with little or no understanding of sustainability issues."

What started out as a project to find a subject suitable to teach undergraduates about data management and analytics soon developed into an initiative with far wider implications. "This is an emerging area, one that isn't going away, and would really help graduates when they go into the real world," says Millard. Working alongside Dr Theodoulis, SAS provided advice, analytics software, teaching materials and lecturer coaching through the SAS® Academic Programme. This resulted in the SAS Carbon Challenge that launched in the 2009-10 academic year, with SAS® Enterprise Guide® the primary analytical tool. "We divided second-year students into teams and asked them to collect, search, analyse and report on relevant information," Dr Theodoulidis says. "In particular, we wanted them to consider the impact of IT provision on the University's carbon footprint, and recommend how IT could be managed in more environmentally friendly ways."

More sustainable business

"Previously, this was an unknown topic in the school, at least for teaching purposes, and so meant teaching new knowledge," says Dr Mohammed Zaki, Course Leader. It was also a challenge to the University to access the carbon consumption data required, which was often inconsistent and needed extensive manipulation to make it suitable for analysis. Dr Zaki adds, "Students were put out the data wasn't pristine initially. In that respect, the project was an interesting mirror of real-life problems in industry with carbon monitoring and analysis." Three SAS prizes were offered for the winning teams, each one tasked with helping the University achieve its annual carbon reduction of three percent.

"We used SAS to compare Manchester to other universities, and using factors that might mitigate the level of emissions like size, location and student numbers," says undergraduate Suzanne Tattersall. "We then went into detail, looking at Business School emissions in terms of contribution to the entire University. We used SAS to aggregate energy meter readings for each building and analyse the spread of energy consumption. We also researched ways to reduce emissions resulting from IT, like servers and computer clusters, and gave projections on possible reductions depending on which initiative was implemented." She opted to explore this area further in her third-year dissertation, which examines 'the human factors in sustainability initiatives', to help provide more insights into how the University can change student behaviour.

Lucy Millard says, "Behaviour change starts with students turning their computers off, and discussing the issues with friends and family. In that sense, this project has had a huge impact - which is very important, given the University spends £15 million on energy annually. We've seen a change in student attitudes; they really engaged with the subject and did a tremendous amount of work, providing sensible suggestions on carbon saving. It had taken us a few years to come up with recommendations that took the students a few months, which was impressive, especially given the data volumes." The 2010-11 academic year saw The SAS Carbon Challenge repeated, again involving second-year undergraduates on the IT Management for Business course along with other MBS students. Plans are under way to expand the challenge to other UK universities. Millard adds, "The SAS Carbon Challenge has been very successful, and is something I talk about all the time, at Carbon Trust conferences and other events, explaining it to other Universities."

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Manchester Business School

Teaching data management, analytics and sustainability issues to Business School students in innovative and engaging ways; to offer students more while supporting the University's own policies and meeting external targets to reduce carbon emissions.
SAS® Analytics and support via the SAS® Academic Programme – including expert advice, analytics software, teaching materials and lecturer coaching.
Student attitudes and wider behaviours are changing as students become more knowledgeable in environmental issues, through analytics and an evidence-based approach, with their recommendations supporting the University's efforts to become more energy efficient and reduce its carbon footprint by at least 40 percent.

Reducing carbon should be a key priority for higher education; it's the right thing to do. We especially value the many forms of support provided by SAS for the Business School, which does so much to encourage sustainable thinking amongst students.

Professor Maynard Case

Associate Vice-President for Compliance, Risk and Sustainability

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