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Darla Moore School of Business

Alumna and marketing faculty member working to make the world a better place

July 29, 2020

Marketing clinical assistant professor Kealy Carter (’07 IMBA, ’14 Ph.D. marketing) uses her passion for sustainability to guide her research and show her students how they can navigate data-rich environments and analyze diverse pieces of information.

Carter, who teaches MBA and Professional MBA program courses, graduated from the Moore School with her International MBA and Ph.D. in marketing.

The director of the sustainability initiative within the Moore School, Carter primarily focuses her research on ways companies can reduce their environmental impact or influence individuals to behave in more environmentally, socially responsible manners.

One of Carter’s co-authors, Lateef Assi (’17 USC M.S. engineering and industrial management, ’18 USC Ph.D. structural and material engineering), teaches at Al-Mustaqbal University College in Iraq and is trying to develop sustainable concrete.

With Assi’s interest in developing sustainable concrete and Carter’s in marketing, they’ve collaborated with other authors on two scholarly articles in the Journal of Cleaner Production, an international, transdisciplinary journal featuring content focused on environmentally sustainable research and practice.

Their initial article, “Sustainable Concrete: Building a Greener Future,” was published in October 2018 and offers a more sustainable alternative to the current standard, ordinary Portland cement, which Carter said accounts for 7-10 percent of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide. The fly ash-based geopolymer concrete they examine in their research has a 40 percent lower carbon footprint than ordinary Portland cement and also offers improved performance.

Potential applications for the cost-competitive geopolymer concrete include infrastructure construction projects, Carter said.

Another related article will be published by Carter, Assi and their co-authors in the August 2020 Journal of Cleaner Production. “Review of Availability of Source Materials for Geopolymer/Sustainable Concrete” further assesses the global opportunities to switch to fly ash-based geopolymer concrete from ordinary Portland cement based on supply and demand of raw materials.

Based on current conditions, a 7 percent replacement of standard ordinary Portland cement with a fly ash-based geopolymer concrete is possible globally with significant opportunity in the United States and Europe where as much as 75 and 100 percent replacement are feasible, respectively. This represents a great opportunity to significantly reduce the impact of infrastructure projects on the environment, Carter said. While geopolymer concrete is cost competitive and much more environmentally friendly than standard concrete, geopolymer concrete also reaches final compressive strength faster and has higher compressive strength and better durability.

Beyond sustainable concrete, Carter is also researching consumer perceptions of sustainable food and beverage products. She is in the fourth round of revisions to publish a paper in the Journal of Marketing Research that looks at a three-dimension scale to measure the sustainability of food and beverages.

Carter and her co-authors determine the extent to which a product is natural or real; how well workers and animals are treated during the production process; and the overall impact of the product on the environment; the scale also has implications on both consumer willingness to pay price premiums as well as likelihood to purchase sustainably marketed goods.

“This scale can be a valuable tool to both researchers and managers interested in understanding the impact of various actions like third party certifications – USDA Organic, Fair Trade, etcetera – on perceived product sustainability as well as purchase likelihood and willingness to pay,” Carter said.

In all of her research about environmentally conscious products and how they are marketed, Carter utilizes large data sets to inform her points or prove their effectiveness. Carter impresses upon her students she teaches in undergraduate marketing classes and the MBA and Professional MBA program courses to learn how to process data and use it to help them tell a story to “communicate and support recommended actions.”

Carter said the fact that she is an alumna of the same program she teaches gives her an added sense of responsibility to help her students gain valuable skills to take into the marketplace after they graduate.

“My experience in the IMBA program has been invaluable to my career,” Carter said. “I gained a broader business skill set that helped me land a job at multinational company (FedEx), influenced my managerially focused research and shaped the way I teach and relate to students in the classroom.”

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