MEM Specialization in Business and the Environment

Purpose and Scope

MEM Business Environment graphic

As the human demand for goods and services continues to grow, businesses face increasing risks to the resource systems on which they rely – from materials, to energy, water, food, climate and biodiversity. Many businesses also create pollution and waste, imposing costs and risks on the communities in which they operate.

Not only do these risks drive a search for greater productivity in resource use, they also create opportunities for entirely new businesses to develop – offering new materials and approaches to meeting human needs in ways that are supportive of resilient resource systems. As a result, increasing numbers of companies are seeking to hire graduates who bring both scientific and business knowledge to addressing these risks and opportunities. At the same time, as environmental organizations continue to grow, more and more of them are looking to business for examples of financial, organizational and operational models to improve their effectiveness.

The purpose of this specialization is to help students use the language and tools of business to address pressing resource and pollution issues. It will be particularly helpful for MEM students with an environmental science or policy background and less experience with business concepts. Students enrolled in the joint degree program with the School of Management should consider focusing their work at FES on the types of resource systems described below. 


Foundations Students of this specialization, like all MEM students, are strongly encouraged to complete the MEM Foundations courses or to have had equivalent training [1]. These courses provide a common foundation of concepts, principles, and tools that all MEM students should learn, regardless of their specialization, to excel as professional managers working in complex resource systems. The Foundations courses are:
Specialization Core Students must complete at least one of the finance/accounting courses, as well as at least one of the business strategy or law classes listed below. Taken together, these courses introduce the language and tools used by businesses as the foundation for managing their activities – including their relationships with the resource systems on which they rely:
Finance/Accounting (at least one course required)  
Strategy or Law (at least one course required) 

Quantitative Analysis and Measurement At least one course is required in Quantitative Analysis and Measurement. Courses in this group impart skills and knowledge needed by business managers to organize, interpret and present observational data relevant to resource problems:  
Specialization Electives Elective courses include disciplinary and interdisciplinary treatments of an array of topics relevant to managing business and environment issues. The three groupings below reflect areas of strength in faculty and student interest at Yale – but other routes through the curriculum exist as best fit the student’s interests. Enrollment in elective courses is ultimately left to the discretion of the student and her or his advisor, but should include at least three courses in one of these areas. The elective courses can be chosen to increase both the breadth and depth of understanding and should be selected to strengthen student preparation for their Capstone Project/Course. Courses at the Schools of Management, Law and other parts of Yale may also be used to meet the electives requirement.

Sustainable Products and Operations (sample classes) Environmental Markets and Finance (sample classes)
Innovation and Entrepreneurship (sample classes)
Resource concentration Students specializing in Business and the Environment should also consider taking a number of courses focused on a particular resource system (land, water, energy, materials, climate, food, etc.). Some of these resource-oriented courses are organized within the School’s specializations in Sustainable Land Management, Water Resource Science and Management and Energy. Others arise in the areas of Industrial Ecology, Green Chemistry, Green Engineering and related areas.

Policy considerations In addition to the courses on policies shaping environmental markets that are listed above, other courses cover policy topics affecting the intersections between business and the environment. Students interested in these interactions should also review the School’s guidance on courses in the area of Environmental Policy Analysis.

Capstone Project/Course The Capstone requirement focuses on applied problem solving and relies on the application of knowledge, methodological approaches and interpretive techniques gained from courses taken during the earlier stages of the MEM.

A Capstone project originates with the student, with input and advice from the student’s advisor for the project. 

A Capstone Project may involve providing a service to a client (e.g., a company, not-for-profit, government agency or individual), preparing a business plan or undertaking a research project that culminates with a paper suitable for publication in a business or academic journal. In some cases, a Capstone Project may involve group work. 

All Capstone Projects have four basic deliverables that will be evaluated by the student’s Capstone Project Advisor: (i) a brief project proposal submitted by the third week of the semester; (ii) a mid-semester progress report; (iii) a final written report; and (iv) an oral presentation of the final project. An extended abstract describing the project will be published on the School’s (new) Student Research Database and the oral presentation will be open to all members of the F&ES community.
In addition, certain courses have been identified as fulfilling the requirement for a Capstone experience. In the business and environment arena these include

Faculty Coordinator: Brad Gentry

Specialization Faculty: Paul Anastas, Mark Ashton, Maureen Burke, Ben Cashore, Marian Chertow, Dan Esty, Eli Fenichel, Ken Gillingham, Tom Graedel, Matthew Kotchen, Reid Lifset, Robert Mendelsohn, Chad Oliver, Deborah Spalding, Julie Zimmerman.
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