Jordan Howell is Associate Professor of Sustainable Business at Rowan University, co-Director of the Rowan Center for Responsible Leadership, a former Commissioner on the New Jersey Pinelands Commission, and author of Garbage in the Garden State, which was published in April by Rutgers University Press. He recently joined UC Press’s journal Case Studies in the Environment as Associate Editor.

UC Press: Welcome to Case Studies in the Environment!

JH: Thanks! Happy to be here. I loved the author experience publishing in CSE and I am excited to help others get their work into this terrific journal.

Case Studies in the Environment Associate Editor Jordan Howell

UC Press: Much of your work lies at the intersection of business management and the environment. In fact you note that “businesses are perhaps the most powerful tools we have to bring about sustainability goals.” Tell us about some of your recent projects exploring the role of business in achieving sustainability goals.

JH: I want to start by saying also that there is a role for government and private society (us as individuals) also in achieving sustainability, but businesses are operating at a different scale and different speed than those other entities. In my own research I’ve focused on the waste and recycling industry, and most recently on the role for financial instruments called derivatives (e.g. futures contracts) in improving markets for recycled material and making it easier for companies to incorporate recycled content into their products. I also have some ongoing research on the golf industry, and trying to help golf courses improve their performance with regard to biodiversity and sustainability impacts.

UC Press: Case studies have long been used in business management. What do you see as the role of case studies in environmental studies and sciences? Or conversely, the role of environmental case studies in business school?

JH: I think case studies in general are valuable because they help faculty and students alike get “into the weeds” of a problem or issue. It’s fine and valuable to show students definitions and explain concepts in the abstract. But the “real world” where sustainability decisions live is not that clear cut, and good case studies identify the conflicts and compromises inherent to any decision about a course of action relating to a sustainability issue. So I think business-y cases help environmental students see that there is a much broader context in which environmental issues live. Conversely environmental cases help business students expand their understanding of the stakeholders and issues that might go into a business decision, that it’s not always just about maximizing profits. I think in both instances there is also tremendous value in exposing both groups of students to content and concepts that they might not otherwise encounter. Case studies can encourage interdisciplinary thinking and exploration, at least in my experience. 

UC Press: While you are new to CSE as an associate editor, your experience with the journal goes back some years–in fact, your case study The Pinelands Development Credit Program: Using Market Mechanisms to Achieve Preservation Goals was an Honorable Mention award-winner in Case Studies in the Environment’s 2021 Prize Competition. Tell us about that paper.

To be able to bring this market-based mechanism for environmental protection to a broader audience is gratifying for me and I hope it is instructive for the faculty and students who decide to use the case study.

JH: Thanks for noticing! Yes I am really proud of that paper, and also proud of the fact that several of the co-authors were undergrads at my university when we put it together. I had the privilege of serving on the New Jersey Pinelands Commission for a few years, and one of the things I found most interesting about that organization is the Pinelands Development Credit Program (PDC). The PDC program is admittedly abstract–it allows property owners in environmentally sensitive areas to sell their rights to develop a property (e.g. build structures and infrastructure) while still owning the underlying property. It’s tough to understand even for folks who work with it! But it’s also been pretty successful in achieving the desired environmental protection outcomes. The paper highlights some of the history of the program, and also outlines trends in this marketplace for development rights. We also look at some of the environmental successes that have grown out of the program.

To be able to bring this market-based mechanism for environmental protection to a broader audience is gratifying for me and I hope it is instructive for the faculty and students who decide to use the case study. It’s also led to additional research, again with some of my students, on the history of the PDC program and ways the program can be expanded.

UC Press: What were your experiences with the journal as an author? What made you decide to join the editorial team?

JH: My experiences as an author were positive! Great feedback, great platform for submission and review. I’d encourage anyone to submit to CSE and if you publish a lot of academic research, you’ll know that many platforms and publishers are a real pain to work with. 

Regarding the editorial team, as I outlined above I think that case studies are a really valuable tool for faculty and students alike. So in general I’d like to contribute to CSE in order to get more cases in front of more (and different types of) people. My goals as part of the editorial team are first and foremost to facilitate publication for those who submit their work, just like the rest of the editorial team! But beyond that, I really hope to encourage and facilitate business, finance, and economics-oriented publications in CSE and publications from faculty and their students in those areas. I think it’s really important for environmental and business folks to understand “the language” each other is speaking.

UC Press: Are there any particular topics or subject matter you will take a special interest in with CSE? Any particular kinds of case studies you’d like to see?

JH: Well, as I mentioned, I’d like to see more business, finance, and economics-oriented publications in CSE and publications from faculty and their students in those areas. Some of the most important (or at least, the most “hyped”) environmental innovations have connections to new technologies, new markets, and new financial innovations. A lot of these types of things–think about carbon offset credits or biodiversity credits as an example–sound great on paper and in the academic and policy literature, but they run into serious problems when they are deployed in the real world. That doesn’t mean the concept is without merit though, just that we must better understand the successes and failures of a given innovation in practice, in the real world, and then go back and make changes to it. That’s the sort of stuff that case studies in general can help students see and understand better.

UC Press: Thank you so much for everything you do for Case Studies in the Environment, and best of luck in your new role as Associate Editor!

JH: Thank you!

Case Studies in the Environment is the only journal exclusively devoted to publishing peer-reviewed environmental case study articles, as well as articles that focus on the pedagogy of using studies for in-class instruction or other purposes. The journal’s overarching objective is to publish case studies that provide insights on critical environmental issues to students, educators, researchers, and environmental professionals and policymakers.