Carnegie Mellon University

Tepper Sustainability Research Initiative

The Tepper School Sustainability Initiative recognizes both increasing student demand for sustainability studies and the existing expertise among faculty across Carnegie Mellon. The essence of sustainability is considering impacts of actions today on outcomes in the future.

The initiative encompasses a wide range of topics, including energy, natural resources, and the environment; health and social well-being; engineering; and architecture.

Nicholas Muller, Lester and Judith Lave Associate Professor of Economics, Engineering, and Public Policy at the Tepper School, directs the initiative. It offers students an opportunity to pursue scholarship, coursework, and career opportunities in this ever-growing field and exemplifies the Tepper School’s desire to be a leader among business schools in forward-looking and forward-thinking education.

Measuring Sustainability

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Nearly 100 years ago, the United States federal government began tracking economic performance using metrics like Gross Domestic Product (GDP). While this was a heroic achievement, it was not long after that economists recognized GDP and similar indices are incomplete. These tools omit the value of services that lie beyond the market boundary. Some of the most important factors overlooked by GDP are central to sustainability: environmental goods and services, health status, and equity, to name a few.

In the 1970s, pioneering economists proposed alternative measures of output that track important contributions to human welfare that are missed by GDP. Since the 1990s, we have constructed such indices. To gauge the sustainability of society’s growth and development, we must measure its performance using tools that encompass both market and non-market outcomes.

Does Environmental Policy Hinder Economic Growth?

Nicholas Muller talks to Sciencevideos.org about his recent publication in PLOS ONE: "Does Environmental Policy Affect Scaling Laws Between Population and Pollution? Evidence From American Metropolitan Areas."

Energy and Sustainability

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For centuries, energy has been synonymous with fossil fuels. Reliance on such sources of energy has enabled many nations and societies to experience phenomenal growth in their standards of living.

Of course, fossil fuels do produce unwanted side effects including air and water pollution and climate change. These effects manifest in terms of human health, school attendance, worker productivity, damage to private property, and large-scale ecological change.

Current debates about energy and sustainability center on transitioning away from traditional sources toward renewables, such as wind and solar, and low-carbon sources such as natural gas and nuclear.

Course Spotlight: Sustainability, Energy, and the Environment

An undergraduate course taught by the Tepper School's Nicholas Muller, Sustainability, Energy, and the Environment teaches students to approach environmental challenges using empirical evidence and the tools of economics.

Ethics and Sustainability

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From how one runs a business to how governments manage the allocation of resources, ethical concerns are inseparable from sustainability. 

Consider reliance on fossil fuels to power our economies. On the one hand, the relatively low market price for such products increases their short-run appeal. However, their use generates externalities borne by communities often separated by both space and time from their use.

Current discussions regarding ethics and sustainability ask the following difficult questions: How should society weigh the ancillary effects of one’s own actions? To what extent should the welfare of people alive in the future affect our decisions today? How does a manager charged with maximizing shareholder value incorporate such thinking into their decision-making process?

Technology and Sustainability

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Technology transforms raw materials and labor into goods and services that drive our economy. As such, technology plays a crucial role in determining whether economies develop and grow sustainably. A quick look at the history of transportation is a great example.

At the beginning of the 20th century, coal-fired locomotives and horses provided the means to move people and freight. Over the ensuing 100-plus years, the transportation sector has been radically transformed to feature the much more efficient passenger and freight modes we depend on today.

Current debates at the nexus of technology and sustainability center on continued efficiency improvements in traditional technologies as well as transitioning to hybrid and electric vehicles.

Shut Up About Your Tesla

Electric cars have tremendous potential but they're not yet a perfect — or accessible — alternative to gas-powered cars. In this video, Lou Foglia of Beme News references Nicholas Muller's research on "Distributional Effects of Air Pollution from Electric Vehicle Adoption."

Faculty

nick muller

Nicholas Z. Muller

Associate Professor of Economics, Engineering, and Public Policy; Lester and Judith Lave Development Chair in Economics, Engineering, and Public Policy, Tepper School of Business

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Akshaya Jha

Assistant Professor of Economics and Public Policy, Heinz College

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Tae Wan Kim

Tae Wan Kim

Associate Professor of Business Ethics, Tepper School of Business

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Karen Clay

Karen Clay

Professor of Economics and Public Policy at Heinz College, joint appointment with the Tepper School of Business

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Jay Apt

Jerome Apt

Professor and Co-Director of Carnegie Mellon Electricity Industry Center, Tepper School of Business and the College of Engineering

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Alan Scheller-Wolf

Alan Scheller-Wolf

Richard M. Cyert Professor of Operations Management, Senior Associate Dean of Faculty and Research

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Fallaw Sowell

Fallaw Sowell

Associate Professor of Economics

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Nicola Secomandi

Nicola Secomandi

Professor of Operations Management; Head, Ph.D. Program

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Duane Seppi

Duane J. Seppi

The BNY Mellon Professor of Finance; Head, M.S. in Computational Finance Program

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