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Business School Lessons

2008 October 10

About the author: Caleb Shaffer joined EPA’s San Francisco office in 2002. For the past three years he worked with southern California tribes on solid waste issues. He is currently manager of the Waste Management Division’s Information Management Office.

For the last three years I have been pursuing a Master of Business Administration from the University of San Francisco. While the mantras of business school such as maximizing profit and creating efficient systems are directly applicable to the business world, they are also valuable lessons to my current job at EPA. Organizing a group of diverse individuals and rallying around a common cause to achieve tangible outcomes are results of successfully applying classroom theories to real life situations.

Photo of trash piles on reservationThe Torres Martinez Reservation in southern California has historically been a magnet for illegal dumping. With rapid development in the area, large migrant worker population, and commercial agricultural operations, the open land of the reservation was seen as an easy place to dump illegally. The problem became so bad that operators on the reservation started collecting money to accept waste on their property, creating environmental and human health hazards from ill-managed and exposed dumps, which often caught on fire. The business school concept of “maximize profit and minimize cost” needed to change to “maximize human health and minimize harm to the environment”.

In April 2006, the Tribe, EPA and the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs formed a collaborative consisting of over 25 federal, state and local agencies. This was the first time these organizations, which have very different missions, came together to recognize a common problem and develop solutions. As an organizer of the collaborative, business school principles I had learned in the classroom, such as group dynamics and organizational development, offered valuable tools to manage a large group of diverse stakeholders. After the first meeting and a very eye-opening tour of the existing dumps on the reservation, members of the collaborative went out of their way to offer the resources needed to solve this unique problem. To date, 24 dumpsites have been shut down and cleaned up, dump fires have been virtually eliminated, and a rigorous outreach campaign and enforcement program has been created. Most importantly, community members have seen a real change in health and an improvement for their environment.

The collaborative has created a model of how federal, state and local agencies can come together to combat a decade long problem. Creating a cohesive group, building trust, and challenging that group to perform are textbook models creating real human health improvements and environmental results. It’s a tangible example of business school lessons playing out in real world situations.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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10 Responses leave one →
  1. BruceWilliams permalink
    October 11, 2008

    It is very good to know that you are very much concerned about the cleanliness and the nature. You are a good MBA graduate. University in San Francisco is very good which has given a wonderful thoughts to the students. Collaboration is very important for solving these type of problems. A separate dump sites should be provided in open space away from human leaving and also should be decomposed to save from environment threat.
    Bruce Williams

  2. sarah permalink
    October 12, 2008

    Wow, it’s great to see some positive change.

  3. manter permalink
    October 12, 2008

    The environment is everyone’s business and it’s great to see how Caleb has been able to apply MBA theory to cleaning up the environment. I find it interesting to think that one person’s education can benefit so many others. Skills to motivate a group of people to work together to achieve a single goal is very important for success. It’s nice to see that government employee’s take the time to continue to improve their education. This should make US tax payers very happy to know that we have talented people working for us.

  4. Liz Carson permalink
    October 12, 2008

    We need to clean up this planet. As a diplomat. I am working with the diplomatic corps on ways they can use their influence to get more done towards environmental issues.

  5. Greg permalink
    October 13, 2008

    Cool blog – i see business schoool paid off

  6. theyear2048 permalink
    October 14, 2008

    there was an environment 2048 on youtube! check it :)

  7. mack permalink
    June 18, 2009

    There are very less people with such positive and good attitude towards environment and believe in team work.

  8. Kaiza permalink
    March 16, 2010

    Thanks for the information you have posted in here. It was really informative, and also it gives relevant ideas that would give more benefits to the readers. Hope to hear more from you..


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