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Seeking a More Sustainable Future in Business

By Lauren Ober

Susanne Fratzscher stands outside the World Wildlife Fund Building in Washington, DC. (Photo by Lauren Ober)

Susanne Fratzscher stands outside the World Wildlife Fund Building in Washington, DC. (Photo by Lauren Ober)

Susanne Fratzscher wants corporate sustainability to be standard in the global marketplace.

As a senior advisor for renewable energy for the World Wildlife Fund, the 38-year-old is developing and promoting the goal through a labeling system for consumers called WindMade.

Before WWF, she served as managing director for the Canadian German Chamber of Industry and Commerce. Renewable energy came up often. But she wanted to deepen her understanding of corporate sustainability.

So the German-born Fratzscher enrolled in Kogod’s inaugural Master of Science in Sustainability Management program. She is one of 312 international students pursuing a master's degree at American University. Already it’s helped Fratzscher see more clearly the critical role corporations have in helping create a more sustainable future.

“I’m really understanding how to change corporate behavior and make businesses see the value of investment in renewable energy,” she said. “The program is the perfect complement.”

She already had a master’s degree in international relations, but she was looking for a more interdisciplinary approach to sustainability. Kogod’s newest degree program integrates business education with environmental science and public policy to help students become leaders in the burgeoning sustainability arena.

While she’s only taking one class a semester — she’s a full-time working professional and a mother of two — Fratzscher can already see the program’s value in her own job. 

For her Sustainability Systems: Legal, Regulatory and Policy Issues class taught by Professor Daniel Jacobs, the program director, Fratzscher wrote a research paper on how production tax credits can spur corporations to become more sustainable. 

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This is exactly what she’s trying to do in her job at the WWF — figuring out how corporate responsibility can make good business sense.

“This highlights how I can intelligently link my work and the program together,” she said.

At the WWF, one of the largest independent conservation organizations in the world, Fratzscher’s main duty is to advance the WindMade labeling initiative. 

By working with corporations to enhance their renewable energy efforts, Fratzscher and the WWF are helping empower consumers to choose products and companies created with wind power.

WindMade is the first global consumer label that identifies organizations and products that use wind energy in their operations. 

It was created last year and already has some big corporate support — Deutsche Bank, Motorola and LEGO are all corporate founding members.

As a professional in the sustainability field, Fratzscher is in good company in her MSSM class. Her classmates include engineers, public policy experts, urban planners, and business people interested in advancing the principles of sustainability.  A variety of experience is one of the highlights of the MSSM program, she said.

“I find it really enriching. I’m seeing the material with different eyes,” Fratzscher said.

The MSSM program has also been a good way for Fratzscher to learn about the United States. Before moving to Washington, D.C. to take the job with the WWF in August, she and her family lived in Montreal for 10 years.

“It’s been intense, but it’s a great way to access a new country,” she said.