Quadruple Bottom Line Decision Making Training

Tools and processes to support sustainability-based decision making and organizational leadership...

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Quadruple Bottom Line Decision Making Training is a Leadership goal in the Cornell Climate Action Plan (CAP).

Provide training on quadruple bottom line decision making for Cornell’s leadership. A new report released in Fall 2016 provides a recommended framework for quadruple bottom line decision-making.

Goal: Incorporate climate and sustainability impacts into organizational decision making and management practices at Cornell.

Every Cornell student, faculty, and staff member must understand both the challenges raised by climate change and ways to generate and participate in solutions. Sustainability-based decision making and organizational leadership has evolved over the years into a sophisticated set of tools and processes that can support managers and leaders at all levels of an organization.

Cornell was one of the first universities in the country to integrate sustainability management tools into a university management academy. Sustainability training for Cornell managers is offered twice a year, and 36 managers have completed the program since it was launched in 2012. The 3-hour sustainability module provides an introduction to the core decision-making concept of ‘quadruple bottom line’ thinking through case studies and scenario-based activities. Through these activities managers practice how to incorporate environmental, social, organizational (academic mission), and economic factors into day-to-day decision making. The goal is for participants to:
1) Understand Cornell’s vision and a manager’s role in sustainability
2) Demonstrate how sustainability fits into Cornell’s culture
3) Practice tools to encourage sustainability practices in their unit
4) Identify interests, passions, and skills in relation to sustainability
5) Develop plans for integrating sustainability into their units.

A new leadership training initiative designed for the realities of departmental directors, associate deans, deans, associate provosts, and vice presidents will be needed to build on the sustainability trainings for Cornell managers that have occurred during the past two years. The goal of this new initiative will be to further integrate sustainability into institutional decision-making at Cornell.

Consultation services have been identified that could support development of a sustainability leadership program for higher level directors and administrators at Cornell. The Harvard Center for Health and the Global Environment offers executive education services based on the groundbreaking work of Leith Sharpe. A possible collaboration between the Harvard Center and Cornell is currently being explored. For more information on the Harvard program, visit https://ccpe.sph.harvard.edu/programs.cfm?CSID=EELS0614.

Next Steps

  • Draft a Senior Leadership Sustainability Education initiative concept paper.
  • Form a planning team with representatives from the Campus Sustainability Office, Human Resources, and the Presidents Sustainable Campus Committee to meet with representatives of the Harvard Center.
  • Develop and administer a survey to departmental directors, associate deans, deans, associate provosts, and vice presidents to assess their needs and interests for customized sustainability trainings.


The success of this action hinges on securing senior administration support for additional trainings and establishing a partnership with external professionals who are experienced in delivering senior administration sustainability trainings.

For more information visit the Sustainability Leadership Development webpage.