Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise

The Erb Institute is committed to creating a socially and environmentally sustainable society through the power of business. Building on nearly two decades of research, teaching, and direct engagement, the Institute has become one of the world's leading sources of innovative knowledge on the culture, technologies, operations and governance of business in a changing world.

The Institute's impact is realized most powerfully through our vibrant global network of students and alumni who are the transformative change agents in business, government and the non-profit worlds. Created in 1996 through the generosity of Frederick A. Erb (BBA '47) and his wife, Barbara, the Institute is a partnership between the School of Natural Resources and Environment and the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.

The Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise sponsors a renowned dual-degree program between SNRE and the Stephen M. Ross School of Business. As an Erb student, you gain an understanding of the complexities associated with the issues of managing organizations with environmental, social and economic challenges. Ross and SNRE allow students the flexibility to tailor their course of study so that they are prepared to face the challenges of meeting the ideals and the realities of sustainable enterprise.

Please visit the Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise website for more information.

Check out Erb if you are interested in:

  • Sustainable enterprise
  • Scientific literacy
  • Ethical responsibility
  • Technological savvy
  • Global perspective
  • Interdisciplinary scholarship

About the founders:

Frederick A. and Barbara M. Erb founded the Institute in 1996 with an endowment gift of $5 million. Since then, their generous support and unwavering commitment has continued to grow. To date, they have made cumulative gifts totaling $20 million in support of the Institute.

Both Fred and Barbara were born and raised in the Detroit area. After graduating in 1941 from the Cranbrook School in Bloomfield Hills, Fred Erb attended Cornell University to study engineering. In 1942 he transferred to the University of Michigan and it was there he met Barbara, at a New Year's Eve celebration. With the onset of World War II, Fred joined the Army Enlisted Reserve and was called to active duty in June 1943. While he was away, Barbara worked as the secretary for the headmaster of Cranbrook School. After the war, Fred and Barbara were married and Fred immediately resumed his education at Michigan. Having decided that he wanted to be an entrepreneur and control his own destiny, Fred switched from engineering to business and achieved his BBA degree with honors in August 1947.

Degree in hand, Fred seized his first entrepreneurial opportunity and bought into his uncle's lumber and coal business in Royal Oak, Michigan. At that time, the Erb Lumber Company had one store, seven employees, and revenues approaching $200,000, one third of which were generated from the sale of coal. Fred developed and expanded the enterprise and when he sold it to Carolina Builders in 1993 the Erb Lumber Company had 45 locations and approximately $300 million in sales. Ever the savvy entrepreneur, Fred didn't stop there, but continued to develop multiple successful real estate and investment partnerships.

Now retired, with their concern for a sustainable future, it is not surprising that Fred and Barbara have established a family foundation to institutionalize and perpetuate their philanthropy. With the creation of the Erb Family Foundation, the Erbs enter a new phase of their family experience. Together the family is developing joint passions while working toward a common goal í¢â‚¬“ to effect systemic change by nurturing sustainable communities. The Erbs believe that the key is working collaboratively and respectfully together to make wise, compassionate decisions to achieve meaningful and lasting change.