Plant + People + Profit + God = Teaching the economics of going green
By: Jodi H. Beyeler
The environmental movement and the business community haven’t always been great friends.
But new Associate Professor of Economics Jerrell Ross Richer is finding that his expertise
on sustainability and business is the perfect fit as the GC campus and students work to be
greener, to save money and to practice Christian faith.
As an academic, Richer defines sustainability like many experts do. “It usually involves
three objectives: protect the planet; provide for the needs of people; and produce the
goods and services that bring comfort and joy to our lives.”
But, as a Christian, he also adds a fourth element: faith. “The environmental
movement is often motivated by fear. I believe their cause has been weakened by a
misplaced spirituality and a failure to embrace people of faith,” he said.
Richer started learning about climate change as a graduate student 20 years
ago and it led him to eventually teach in the country’s first master’s of business
administration in sustainable enterprise.
By hiring Richer last year, the GC business department pushed its
curriculum in a new direction that is critical to where the field needs
to go. “My colleagues really support it and see that it is a natural
extension of the focus on business ethics which we always have
had,” Richer said.
Richer’s passion for economics and the environment
are what distinguishes his approach in the classroom,
in his consulting and in his research. During
May term this year, his class “Management Policy
and Social Responsibility” for graduating seniors
partnered with a local commercial truck dealership to
determine the environmental benefits and financial
payback on an investment of wind turbines.
In contrast to his observations of the secular
environmental movement, Richer appreciates the
college’s starting point for working at sustainability.
“Goshen offers a more integrated approach,” he said.
“If we believe sustainability is a calling from God
– that God wants us to protect creation,
people and the economy – then we
can be successful.”