Bard’s definition of sustainability is a simple one:

“Shared Well-Being on a Healthy Planet.”

Traditional ways of thinking about the bottom line, a lack of knowledge about sustainable management, and an emphasis on short-term gains are crippling the business leaders of today.

However, these limitations are also creating boundless opportunity for smart, young, business-savvy, sustainability leaders whose skills are now desperately needed.

Our passion for sustainability is at the heart of our MBA program and the reason why we have created a cutting-edge, 21st century program of business education. We understand that the business leaders of the future and the sustainability leaders of the future are one and the same.

In this digital resource, we invite you to consider the current state of sustainability efforts, the role of business in needed social change, and the importance of a new type of business education, one that suits the needs of the 21st century and beyond.

This page will help you think deeply about what to look for in an MBA program, how to think about the relationships between people, planet, and profit, and how an MBA in Sustainability could translate to a successful career in business, non-profit leadership, and much more.

The State of Sustainability in 2018

Centuries in the future, historians will look back on our era as the time when sustainability efforts truly began to revolutionize and change the way human beings conduct business, live in community, and interact with the natural environment.

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Across the globe, major progress has been made and continues to be made.

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CLEAN
ENERGY

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INTERNATIONAL
COMMITMENTS

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INNOVATIVE
TECHNOLOGIES

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SOCIAL
AWARENESS

We are on in the midst of a radical transition toward sustainable progress, and yet we are facing significant challenges. Many countries are grappling with far-right, nationalistic movements that oppose a harmonious global order. A rapidly evolving technological landscape is disrupting the modern workforce, causing widespread anxiety and a sense of insecurity. Meanwhile, the rate of climate change is accelerating.

In the United States, an unstable political environment threatens to undo all of the policy work that has already been done.

Why are we hopeful about the future? Because we know that the only thing that can stand in the way of progress toward the better, more sustainable future is a lack of vision and leadership, and we’re confident that those leaders exist because we work with them everyday—both our students and faculty are those leaders.

The world needs more people stepping up to be sustainability leaders.

Polarizing Politics: The Growth of Sustainability in a Time of Uncertainty

The dramatic events unfolding in our political atmosphere over the last two years have raised serious questions about the future of sustainability efforts. Many are worried that the efforts of a Trump administration will not simply halt crucial progress toward social and environmental goals, but also reverse the gains made under previous presidential administrations.

However, the polarizing political rhetoric of our times and the social upheaval we have experienced as a nation since the election of Trump could provide an opening for the bipartisan growth of a sustainability movement.

Trump’s regressive policies do threaten climate action, sustainable efforts, and at-risk communities in dangerous ways. But, the political backlash on both sides of the aisle opens up the possibility of a powerful coalition, led by young, energized, social entrepreneurs, of both liberal and conservative ideology in the future.

Sustainability offers a third way forward for us as a nation. With the dangers and irresponsibility of unrestrained capitalism on one hand and the short-sighted efforts of Trumpian 21st century tribalism on the other, sustainable thinking provides a vision of human well-being in a just and prosperous economic system that celebrates the the local community while caring for the global community.

This political era also makes clear how important business is for social change. The absence of political efforts to advance sustainability priorities means that business leaders and corporations are increasingly internalizing social and environmental purpose into their strategic thinking. Corporate defiance of the current administration has led to a more vocal, more ambitious, more passionate, and more sustainable business climate in 2018.

Check Out How We’re Helping Lead the Change

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The Role of Business in Social Change

The fierce backlash against Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement is a perfect example of the power and responsibility of businesses and economic leaders during these years.

Companies are realizing that long-term thinking about the social impact of their products and public perception of the company affects their success in the 21st century economy. While this awareness has been growing for some time, especially as millennials have become a significant part of the world’s workforce and purchasing population, the increased interest in sustainability from mainstream investment firms is a major driving force. In 2016, the Harvard Business Review included for the first time a ranking factor for Environment, Social, and Governance criteria (ESG) in conjunction with traditional financial metrics.

The greatest sustainability challenge we face is the development of a truly circular economy, and this challenge can only be tackled by the business community. In a circular economy, companies make a systemic shift in order to eradicate waste, recycle products and resources, and build social, economic, and natural capital.

A circular economy is one that thinks long-term and is restorative and regenerative, providing value at every level of community and society.

VIEW CIRCULAR ECONOMY CHART

We are no longer in an era where environmentalists and business leaders can be understood as opposed forces. While there is a strong need for innovative start-ups, good public policy, and an enforcement of anti-trust laws to tackle monopolistic systems, we also need to big businesses to lead the charge toward lasting social change. Companies that externalize social and environmental costs increase risk and overlook the opportunity.

Areas Where Businesses Are Stepping Up

It’s not the capitalism of yesterday. In every area of social justice, major businesses are in fact emerging to champion the cause of the oppressed, exploited, and neglected. While there is still a long way to go before good messaging translates to concrete and decisive action, major companies are using their platforms for advocacy and awareness in unprecedented ways.

The best and most public example of this is the evolution of Super Bowl advertising over the last decade. As of 2018, companies are using this massive platform to champion causes that their consumers are passionate about.

Let’s explore some of the areas where businesses have made big statements through advertising in the last few years.

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Equal Gender Representation and Diversity

The business sector is slowly but surely beginning important conversations about gender equality, equal pay, and other types of organizational diversity. While hypocrisy is rampant (the public reaction to the Audi ad featured here was fairly negative due to Audi’s lack of women leaders), these conversations and the slow increase in the number of female CEOs are a...

The business sector is slowly but surely beginning important conversations about gender equality, equal pay, and other types of organizational diversity. While hypocrisy is rampant (the public reaction to the Audi ad featured here was fairly negative due to Audi’s lack of women leaders), these conversations and the slow increase in the number of female CEOs are a part of the corporate shift to a more prosperous, sustainable, and inclusive way of conducting business.

Besides, it’s hard to argue with the research. Evidence suggests that gender equity in management leads to higher company-wide performance and that female leaders are much more likely to push companies in sustainable and profitable directions.

 

 

Environmental Issues

Many companies, both those that are explicitly creating environmentally friendly products and those that are not, are conscious of the fact that consumers care about what they consume and want to learn more about ways they can reduce their ecological footprint. For all companies, this concern is about more than the consumer; they are also are keenly aware of...

Many companies, both those that are explicitly creating environmentally friendly products and those that are not, are conscious of the fact that consumers care about what they consume and want to learn more about ways they can reduce their ecological footprint. For all companies, this concern is about more than the consumer; they are also are keenly aware of increasing resource scarcity and the financial benefits that come from resource conservation and innovation.

In ad campaigns, businesses are specifically addressing environmental crises like climate change, water conservation, and social responsibility. Although we are a long way from a sustainable, circular economy, the awareness that is generated when big brands are willing to deliver a tough message on climate change is valuable.

Immigration

Nearly 800 companies from across every sector, including Walmart, Apple, and Viacom, have spoken up to Congress about immigration, particularly about the fate of America’s “Dreamers.” Many have pointed out that America and major American companies have been built on the vision and labor of immigrants. According to a study done by the New American Economy, in 2015,...

Nearly 800 companies from across every sector, including Walmart, Apple, and Viacom, have spoken up to Congress about immigration, particularly about the fate of America’s “Dreamers.” Many have pointed out that America and major American companies have been built on the vision and labor of immigrants. According to a study done by the New American Economy, in 2015, immigrants were almost twice as likely as the native born population to start a new business. In this area of social debate, the business community is standing up strongly for immigrants and their dreams, and it shows up in their messaging.

Labor Rights

Even as it has become easier to get products and goods from all over the world, it has also become more difficult to ensure that the workers who make the consumer-focused, 21st century economy possible are being treated fairly. With pressure from consumers and the occasional major media story, companies are realizing that the working conditions of the people who...

Even as it has become easier to get products and goods from all over the world, it has also become more difficult to ensure that the workers who make the consumer-focused, 21st century economy possible are being treated fairly. With pressure from consumers and the occasional major media story, companies are realizing that the working conditions of the people who create their products matter. Global low-wage industries like the garment and agricultural industries are particularly notorious for exploiting women and children, forcing workers to work many hours past legal limits, creating intolerable working conditions, and paying workers unfairly. Consumers are refusing to purchase products that are created based on the abuse and exploitation of others.

Supply Chain Transparency

In our globalized economy, the products that end up at consumers’ doorsteps have typically

involved labor or materials from all parts of the world. Every company has an environmental and social footprint, made up not only of their own activity, but also of the activity of the entire supply chain that participated in the production and distribution of the item....

In our globalized economy, the products that end up at consumers’ doorsteps have typically

involved labor or materials from all parts of the world. Every company has an environmental and social footprint, made up not only of their own activity, but also of the activity of the entire supply chain that participated in the production and distribution of the item. Consumers are beginning to hold companies responsible for asking tough questions about the environmental and social impact of each step along their product’s supply chain journey. This kind of transparency is needed in order to help consumers feel confident that they are not participating in unethical or unsustainable practices and to keep companies honest with themselves about their legacy and impact.

LGBTQ Equality

Businesses spoke powerfully for the marginalized in 2016. The whole country watched as North Carolina attempted to pass legislation that targeted gay and transgender individuals. This infamous bill, HB2, or the “bathroom bill” as it was commonly called was denounced by over 120 CEOs and business leaders from major institutions like Bank of America, Dow Chemical,...

Businesses spoke powerfully for the marginalized in 2016. The whole country watched as North Carolina attempted to pass legislation that targeted gay and transgender individuals. This infamous bill, HB2, or the “bathroom bill” as it was commonly called was denounced by over 120 CEOs and business leaders from major institutions like Bank of America, Dow Chemical, and Wells Fargo. The NBA relocated the 2017 All-Star Game from Charlotte, NC, because of the league’s objection to the bill. While nothing could undo the tragedy that this legislation existed in the first place, the economic pressure on North Carolina’s legislature was a huge part of the reason the bill was finally repealed. This episode was a great example of the power of business to affect social change.

However, a recent study conducted by Reaching OUT, an organization that connects the next generation of LGBTQ business leaders, found that on average only 3% of MBA students are out and identify to their peers as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer. While businesses might be speaking up for the LGBTQ community, this community is sadly underrepresented in business education.

#MeToo

The #MeToo movement is a current and massive cultural reckoning taking place in Hollywood, the business sector, journalism, and every other area of society. As leaders begin to tumble from positions of power, every type of organization--corporations, nonprofits, educational institutions, and families--need to be having tough conversations about the systemic...

The #MeToo movement is a current and massive cultural reckoning taking place in Hollywood, the business sector, journalism, and every other area of society. As leaders begin to tumble from positions of power, every type of organization--corporations, nonprofits, educational institutions, and families--need to be having tough conversations about the systemic changes...

 

Ultimately These Efforts Are Limited Because of a Knowledge Gap

The proliferation of big brands that are willing to contribute to public conversation around important sustainability themes is encouraging and something to celebrate.

But it can also be a bit discouraging.

If there is so much good will and activity around positive messaging, why don’t we see a stronger movement toward a circular economy?

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Corporations are moving slowly in the right directions, but are handicapped by a lack of vision. Even if they are developing programs and initiatives to eliminate waste, reduce emissions, and improve the quality of life of their employees and community, most corporations have not yet understood that sustainability is not something they can attach to their corporate strategy as an afterthought, but something they have to place at the core of their mission.

Committing to corporate sustainability is the most responsible and the most profitable path forward for companies. The evidence emerging in the last few years suggests that the companies that are thinking long-term and embracing sustainability as a core value are thriving, offering all stakeholders--from shareholders to the planet--a return on investment.

Ultimately, these corporate efforts are limited because of a big knowledge gap and an even larger leadership gap. Traditional ways of thinking about the bottom line, a lack of knowledge about sustainable management, and an emphasis on short-term gains are crippling the business leaders of today and creating boundless opportunities for smart, young, business-savvy, sustainability gurus whose skills are now desperately needed.

Are MBA programs responding to the need?

Responding to rising company and student demand, most business schools have now added a course or two on sustainability, renewable energy finance or CSR. But ninety percent of what conventional programs teach is still the single-bottom-line approach to business that drives many of the challenges we face. Most programs are just starting to wrap their heads around the evolving needs of the business community.

Across the country, the traditional or average MBA programs offered at universities are dying as student move toward more specialized business master’s degrees where they can walk out with a stronger, specific skill set--and fewer student loans. In 2017, applications to U.S. business schools had declined for the third year in a row. Only the upper echelon of schools--think the top 10 ranked schools--has seen a increase in interest and enrollment.

Here’s What A Cutting Edge MBA Program Should Be Emphasizing

Bard’s MBA in Sustainability is the product of a single question we have asked ourselves: how should we be training managers to help run for-profit or non-profit purpose-driven firms?

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Based on what we’ve heard from today’s young leaders and what we’ve seen over decades of experience teaching leadership, business, economics, and sustainability, here’s what a cutting-edge, 21st century MBA program ought to be focused on in order to meet the global challenges we face.

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The Importance of Tackling Injustice

MBA programs ought to be implicitly and explicitly tackling injustice, both in their own admissions and organizational practices and in the content and case studies they present to students. Students are flocking to MBA programs that focus on helping students use business strategies to solve social ills.

At Bard, we are proud to have an MBA program that is more than 50% female, and that includes men and women from a diverse set of ethnicities, geographic and professional backgrounds, and sexual orientations. Because of our radical emphasis on the inseparability of sound business practice and sustainability and social justice, our MBA students are able to explore in conversation, classes, and projects, the multi-faceted types of solutions that are required to do what is profitable by doing what is right for all stakeholders.

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At Bard, we are proud to have an MBA program that is more than 50% female, and that includes men and women from a diverse set of ethnicities, geographic and professional backgrounds, and sexual orientations.

LEARN HOW BARD ALUMNI ARE LEADING THE CHANGE

The Importance of an Integrated Bottom Line Approach

In order to meet the pressing need for business leaders that understand how to maximize profit while creating sustainable value, aspiring young leaders need MBA programs that teach in the context of an integrated bottom line. Most business schools now offer a course or two in sustainability, sometimes even as a curricular track. However, in these cases, sustainability principles are “bolted-on, not baked in.” Even in MBA programs with a sustainability concentration, the majority of the classes a student takes will focus on a single-bottom line, with no insight provided on how to apply the tools more broadly to building a mission-driven business.

Bard’s unique integration of sustainability into every class allows our MBA students to develop the holistic understanding of business management that is critical to successfully drive sustainable and profitable outcomes. Our program keeps future business leaders focused on the integrated bottom line: economic success, environmental integrity, and social equity.

The Integrated bottom line

The Importance of Accessible Program Structure

One of the many insights that has emerged from recent research about graduate business education is that millennial students are looking for a combination of online and classroom learning, but with a significant emphasis on the classroom. Even as advances in technology have made it easier for business schools to deliver content via online platforms, younger students are looking for the connection and experience that are built through the immediacy of human relationships with faculty and fellow students.

Bard’s MBA in Sustainability has been at the forefront of a new wave of programs that offer high-quality hybrid structure, low-residency business education. The hybrid approach makes our programs widely accessible to aspiring green leaders from across the country while creating intense, community building, experiences over the course of 20 four-day weekends. This commitment we’ve made to an accessible program structure also helps us ensure that our students are coming from a diversity and range of locations and backgrounds which contributes to a rich learning environment.

We are so excited about the hybrid structure of our MBA program that we’ve written a series of blog posts about the advantages we’ve seen. Check out the posts below! 

The Importance of a Well-Rounded Curriculum

Innovation in business school curricula is critical to create the leaders who can build a sustainable future. The graduate business education industry has faced significant challenges in recent years due in large part to the gap between academic learning and industry experience. MBA programs have been shifting curricula to increase the emphasis on professional development, capstone projects, and experiential learning. They have also been navigating the demand for new types of skills and knowledge, like in the field of data analytics, an area that has grown exponentially in the last few years.

However, most MBA programs still have a core curriculum of 50% or less and do not necessarily ensure coordination among faculty regarding integration around a central vision and desired learning outcomes for their graduate students.

At Bard’s MBA in Sustainability, all of our business courses focus on how to build a financially successful business, business unit or organization that is committed to a social and/or environmental mission. Through our integrated core curriculum, Bard demands stronger mastery of comprehensive business literacy than is found in many conventional MBA programs, which typically have only a handful of required core courses.  The reason is that the sources of sustainable business advantage are found not just in operations, in strategy, in marketing, or in employee engagement, but rather throughout the business.

Bard’s core curriculum also gives unique visibility to the concepts and skills that we teach. Our faculty have worked together to develop Bard’s MBA Toolkit that describes the one-hundred and seventy concepts that students master over the course of the sixty-credit curriculum.

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Most MBA programs still have a core curriculum of 50% or less and do not necessarily ensure coordination among faculty regarding integration around a central vision and desired learning outcomes for their graduate students.

LEARN MORE ABOUT WHAT MAKES THE BARD MBA UNIQUE

The Importance of Experiential Learning

In a recent HBR Ideacast from Harvard Business Review, Scott DeRue of the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, spoke at length about the future of MBA education and the importance of experiential learning. DeRue and many other business education leaders, including Bard’s MBA faculty, are identifying a new way of thinking about students’ time in graduate business education.

The future of business education is experiential learning. With this approach, students are able to absorb business fundamentals, but absorb them more practically and quickly because they are using them in concrete settings to solve real problems. Emphasizing experiential learning in your MBA program accelerates students’ development and provides them with the support of mentorship and coaching as they make real-time decisions.

At Bard, 25% of our MBA curriculum is devoted to experiential learning. In Bard’s experiential NYCLab course, MBA students complete a yearlong professional consultancy in the first year of their business program.

Working in teams, students engage in consultancies for businesses, government agencies, and nonprofits. The course runs two full semesters, from August through May. Teams develop and negotiate project agreements with clients that define the scope of work, project deliverables, deadlines, and expectations for communication and information sharing.

Student teams are assigned clients based on the team members’ interests and skill-sets and are mentored by Laura Gitman, Vice President at BSR, a leading global organization that develops sustainable business strategies and solutions through consulting, research and cross-sector collaboration.

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At Bard, 25% of our MBA curriculum is devoted to experiential learning. In Bard’s experiential NYCLab course, MBA students complete a yearlong professional consultancy in the first year of their business program.

LEARN MORE ABOUT BARD’S MBA CURRICULUM

The Importance of Career Focus

Our emphasis on experiential learning is part of our larger focus on career readiness. Today, young people are focused on environmental priorities, but they are also worried about job security, finding meaningful work, and paying off big student loans. MBA programs need to prove their value by staying focused on transitioning graduates into great jobs and meaningful careers.

Students come to the Bard MBA because they seek to transition to meaningful work with a sustainability focus. Our program is uniquely focused on helping graduates build powerful careers in this new world of mission-driven business. Students gain access through avenues including our Sustainable Business Series, our Impact Report podcast, and many guest lecturers.

Bard has more than 200 graduate alumni/ae working in the sustainable business and environmental policy field who are great resources for our graduate students.

Bard MBA students also work with a career coach in their final year in the program in to ensure a positive transition into their post- graduation career at the intersection of business and making a difference. Students gain increased clarity, confidence and practical tools to produce tangible results in an impact career transition and job search.

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Leading the Change: Bard’s MBA in Sustainability

Bard’s definition of sustainability is a simple one: “Shared Well-Being on a Healthy Planet.”

Our passion for sustainability is at the heart of our MBA program and the reason why we have created a cutting-edge, 21st century program of business education. We understand that the business leaders of the future and the sustainability leaders of the future are one and the same.

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The Bard Difference

The Bard MBA in Sustainability is one of a select few graduate programs globally that fully integrates sustainability into a core business curriculum. At Bard, students work in collaborative teams learning how to build businesses and not-for-profit organizations that combine economic, environmental, and social objectives into an integrated bottom line that creates not only healthier businesses, but also a more sustainable world. Graduates of the Bard MBA transform existing companies, start their own, and pioneer a new paradigm of doing business that meets human needs, protects and restores the Earth's systems, and treats all stakeholders with justice and respect.

We focus our efforts around three verticals:

SUSTAINABILITY VISION

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How can I see opportunity where others see environmental and social costs?

LEADING
CHANGE

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How can I engage others
in the vision?

BUSINESS
MASTERY

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How can I execute
successfully on the
vision?

All three are critical. Understanding sustainability and leadership is no use if graduates cannot actually execute on strategies to bring sustainability visions to life.

Here’s What Getting Your MBA in Sustainability Could Look Like

The Bard program is a full 60-credit experience, with the same number of contact hours as a conventional two-year residential program, only better organized. It is not an executive MBA, or an “MBA light.” If you’re passionate about becoming a sustainability leader, we offer you full-time and part-time options to participate in our MBA in Sustainability.

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Full-Time Program

The full-time enrollment option allows Bard MBA students to complete their 60-credit M.B.A. degree in the shortest time possible. This two-year option is best suited for students who are employed part-time or less. While all Bard MBA enrollment is hybrid (online + in person coursework), students are encouraged to recognize that the full-time option is a full master’s level course load of 15 credits per semester, requiring adequate time and headspace to complete the homework, classwork, and group projects.

CURRICULUM: FIRST YEAR

  • Principles of Sustainable Management
  • Economics for Decision Making
  • Personal Leadership Development
  • Accounting and the Integrated Bottom Line
  • NYCLab
  • Globalization and Emerging Markets
  • Strategy for Sustainability
  • Data, Analytics, and Decisions
  • Finance for Sustainability

SECOND YEAR

  • Customers and Marketing
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Leading Change in Organizations
  • Operations and Supply Chains
  • Sustaining a Mission-Driven Organization
  • Employees and Organizations
  • Business Pragmatics
  • ImpactLab: Defining the Future of Finance
  • Business and Sustainable Development
  • Capstone

Note: Yearly course offerings are subject to change.

Part-Time Program

The part-time enrollment option enables Bard MBA students to complete their 60-credit M.B.A. degree while meeting outside work, family, and/or travel requirements. This three-year option is best suited for students who are employed full time, who have family or other personal commitments, or who may be traveling from outside the New York area to complete their MBA degree. The part-time option takes three years to complete and includes two summer courses.

CURRICULUM: FIRST YEAR

  • Principles of Sustainable Management
  • Accounting and the Integrated Bottom Line
  • Personal Leadership Development
  • Data, Analytics, and Decisions
  • Finance for Sustainability
  • Globalization and Emerging Markets

First Summer

  • Economics for Decision Making

SECOND YEAR

  • Entrepreneurship
  • Employees and Organizations
  • NYCLab
  • Operations and Supply Chains
  • Strategy for Sustainability

 

 

THIRD YEAR

  • Customers and Marketing
  • Leading Change in Organizations
  • Sustaining a Mission-Driven Organization
  • Capstone

Note: Yearly course offerings are subject to change.

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LEAD THE CHANGE

A Resource for Aspiring Leaders in Sustainablity

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