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.”