Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Systems Ecology

Department or School/College

W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation

Committee Chair

Jakki J. Mohr

Commitee Members

Cory C. Cleveland, Suzanne G. Tilleman, Benjamin P. Colman


Systems ecology, Industrial Ecology, Regenerative Business, Business Emergy Analysis and Business Life Cycle Assessment, Net-zero or Net-positive Business, Industrial Ecological Modeling


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Biogeochemistry | Business Administration, Management, and Operations | Entrepreneurial and Small Business Operations | Growth and Development | Industrial Technology | Natural Resources Management and Policy | Nature and Society Relations | Other Architecture | Other Environmental Sciences | Other Operations Research, Systems Engineering and Industrial Engineering | Sustainability | Technology and Innovation


Despite their attempts to mitigate ecological impacts through sustainability initiatives, businesses are a major cause of the world's ecological problems. Some progressive businesses are attempting to move beyond “net zero” in terms of achieving neutral environmental impacts and instead are now pursuing a goal of net positive. Net positive refers to the idea that business activities could contribute value-added benefits to earth’s ecological systems, for example, by using technologies that sequester and store carbon. However, except for a handful of high-profile corporate case studies, little is known about how companies are developing their strategies to become net positive and if it is even a realistic goal. Further, little is known regarding the measurements they are using to determine what net positive business practices are. My thesis research addressed three fundamental questions: (1) “What are the types and impacts of net positive strategies an established business might use?”; (2) “What are the measurement issues associated with evaluating the impacts of those strategies?”; and (3) What are the challenges a business faces when implementing net positive strategies? Based on data collected from an organic brewery in western Montana, Wildwood Brewing, my research evaluated two on-site negative emission technologies (NETs), short rotation coppice agroforestry (SRCA) and pyrolysis, as well as on-site energy generation through photovoltaics (PV). Using two environmental accounting methodologies—emergy analysis (EMA) and life cycle assessment (LCA)—to assess Wildwood’s ecological impact, results show that Wildwood must employ NETs over larger amounts of hectarage than it has available on-site in order to attain a net positive state. LCA proved a more useful approach to measuring net positive benefits to the environment over EMA because of its ability to express negative CO2e values from NETs. Based on in-depth interviews with the owner, the main challenges a business may face in achieving net positive include lack of personnel and infrastructure, poor cash flow to fund the initiatives, and a lack of a formal marketing and sales plan to generate greater revenue.



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