Dr. Michael Crooke

Lessons from the Oregon MBA Part II: Interview with Oregon Advanced Strategy Professor Dr. Michael Crooke

PART II: Interview with Dr. Michael Crooke, on sustainability, business, and the Oregon MBA. Conducted April 13, 2016 by Anna Raithel, Center for Sustainable Business Practices MBA, 2017.

If we know that sustainability is important for companies and that sustainable choices often lead to profits, why do you think more companies aren’t choosing the sustainable approach?

The first thing to say is that there aren’t any sustainable companies. There isn’t one company on the planet that is actually sustainable, that is, net neutral impact on the planet. We overuse that term. I would say, “We are on a path towards sustainability.” Companies that don’t subscribe to this way of thinking are becoming more rare. Many of the world’s largest organizations now subscribe to a GRI (Global Reporting Initiative). The first step is to measure where you are and what you are doing, and then set goals for how you want to improve. You’re not judged on how good or bad you are, you’re judged on if you are improving. Sustainability initiatives managers are smart – they can see that this is coming but they don’t know how to do it. One of my clients simply had to bring millennials into their strategic planning process, and now they have all kinds of new ideas around sustainability. 250 companies hold ¾ of the world’s GDP; the power is with the corporations. That’s where change has to happen.

 

Is sustainability being driven by corporations’ deeper sense of responsibility? Or are firms responding to consumer demand?

 I think it’s both. It’s very difficult to argue that global warming isn’t real. It’s a powerful rising of the tide and it’s happening in real time, so companies know they need to get in front of that. If they’re on the backside of that and their competitors launch a similar product that’s more sustainably made, they’re not only going to have lower costs down the road, but the customers are going to follow those companies. I had the opportunity to speak with Steve Jobs in 2008 and spent about an hour with him in his office. He thought that within 15 years the environmental aspect of his product was going to be as important as the form and function of his product. He was such a visionary, he could see beyond the horizon, and he was already building that into the company.

Consumers are demanding it. They want to see it in everything they do, what they wear, what they eat, the kind of house they live in, etc., just like any trend. When we started using organic cotton at Patagonia our jeans were $85. Now you can basically buy the same pair of organic jeans at Wal-Mart for $13. Whole Foods started supplying organic food to the masses and now Costco is the #1 organic food supplier in the world. It’s happening at different rates in different places, but overall from a regression line point of view I think it’s a rising tide and everyone will be able to benefit.

 

What is the role of government and policy in driving sustainability?

 Think of the greatest environmental presidents of our time. Why is Nixon one of them? That’s when the Clean Water Act was passed, and the Endangered Species Act – all of these major policies happened under Nixon, a Republican. I think the leadership has to come from government. Think about what those laws have done and how the basis for environmentalism was created in the 1970’s. Go back to the beginning and think about the food movement and Rachel Carson and Silent Spring (1962), and the power a book like that can have. I think it’s certainly synergistic, but the bottom line is that you need a progressive government. You need a government that understands and protects the people in our capitalistic society. There are a lot of people that believe in the Adam Smith model that a manager’s duty is to make money for shareholders. [There is] no mention of shared value or of societal value. That’s where you start to see b-corporations and nonprofits. Government is very important and it has to work hand in hand with the pioneers; the Yvon Chouinards, the Rachel Carsons, the Anita Roddicks of the world.

 

Do you think there could be a point where sustainability will no longer offer a competitive advantage because it’s such common practice?

 I don’t see that, certainly not in my lifetime. If you take the absolute ideal of what sustainability could be, Michael Braungart’s Cradle To Cradle (2002), you get done with your shirt, throw it into your garden, it composts, the organic and inorganic compounds go back into the soil, and there was no net loss of nutrients in that product. We’re a long ways off from that. But that’s the brilliance of Cradle To Cradle, to lay that concept out and really look at what that panacea could be. Or like the rocket fuel that was proposed at the New Venture Championships in Portland. The fuel was 50-60% more environmentally friendly, it worked better, and rockets could go farther. Sustainability was at the heart of that whole technology and they won the competition. We might be forced into that sort of thinking. We might not have a choice. Mars might not be ready yet.

Written by Anna Raithel

Anna is pursuing an MBA with a focus in Sustainable Business Practices, graduating 2017.

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University of Oregon CCFSA Profile – Annelise Moss

Annelise Moss is an MBA student working toward her certified financial planner (CFP) certification here at the University of Oregon. Moss achieved her undergraduate degree in entrepreneurship and is the only female finishing the finance track of the MBA program this spring. Here is what she has to say about her experiences in finance at the UO.

Can you give me a short description of who you are?
Annelise Moss: Born in Scottsdale, Arizona, my family moved to the Portland area when I was two. I’ve spent the majority of my life in Oregon and I love it here. From an early age, I have loved to dance. Throughout the years I did ballet, jazz, and hip-hop, and I joined a traveling ballroom dance company as an undergrad. I also competed in Latin-style dance with my dance partner. I’ve always thought of myself as creative and found my analytical side close to the end of undergrad. I worked in advertising for a short time and quickly realized it was not the career for me. After doing some job shadowing I found a passion for the investment business. Although I was a business major in undergrad, I took very few finance classes and came back to school to expand my knowledge.

What are your future goals in terms of business?
AM: Ultimately, I would like to have own business. I was an entrepreneurship major in undergrad and have always liked the idea of calling my own shots. People have always intrigued me. In the near future I see myself in more of a business development type role. Learning about people’s motives and how to best support their needs is a passion of mine. I am currently working on my CFP (certified financial planner) certification and would like to start my career with financial planning where I can support clients’ needs.

You’re an MBA currently pursuing your CFP – can you talk a little bit more about that experience? Difficulties? What you enjoy?
AM: It has definitely been a challenge to be an accelerated finance student in addition to working on my CFP education. Luckily, the CFP board gave me some credit for the MBA curriculum but keeping balance in my life has been difficult. With that being said, if I could go back I wouldn’t change my decision. I knew I wanted to stay in Oregon, so expanding my network here is invaluable, and I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve learned in the CFP education program. Some may find estate and retirement planning dull but I really enjoy the thought of being able to help someone plan for a happy retirement and smooth transition.

What resources did/do you use at UO or the Lundquist College of Business that you would recommend current students take advantage of?
AM: The network here at UO is amazing. Ducks are truly dedicated people. As a finance student I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of the Emerging Market Fund, which is a student-led investment fund. It’s been a great experience to come into the program with no idea how to value a company and leaving with the Emerging Market Fund owning two of my stock pitches. I would strongly recommend incoming students take advantage of the guest speakers the program brings in. I know it can be difficult to balance school and work, and it’s hard to give up a couple evenings a month, but it’s worth it. We’ve had a wide variety of speakers including private equity, consulting, wealth managers, and many more.

What are the most important pieces of information you’ve learned from your various internships?
AM: I had a fantastic internship last summer. I worked at Becker Capital Management in downtown Portland with their high net-worth team. I had the opportunity to learn most aspects of the business, including the investment team, trading, and client service. My major project for the summer was to become an expert, plan a lunch, and learn about Social Security. At the end of my internship I presented to a group of high net-worth clients, and I couldn’t speak highly enough about my experience. The team at Becker is outstanding; I had a wonderful mentor who took great interest in my development. My internship was definitely a highlight of my graduate school experience and I am so appreciative of it.

How has the Lundquist College of Business shaped who you are as a person?
AM: Coming into grad school, I felt strongly about who I was as a person. I still feel strongly that I am leaving the same person, but the Lundquist College of Business has given me the tools I need to successfully start the career I wish to have. Who I am as a future investment professional has developed greatly because of the professors here at the college. I’ve had some great professors, including Brandon Julio, Steve McKeon, and Michael Crooke, who have all shaped my experience here. Even though I have only been in for a year and a term, the Lundquist College of Business has made a major impact on my life forever. I would also like to encourage other females to spend some time in the finance world, and be open to finding out if it’s something they are interested in. I strongly recommend any female who thinks they might have an interest in finance to go for it!

Written by UO Business

The UO Lundquist College of Business empowers an engaged community of students, faculty, staff, and stakeholders who create, apply, and disseminate knowledge that contributes significantly to their professions, communities, and society. The college delivers a dynamic learning environment where world-class professors engage and get to know students, where students work on real projects for real companies, and where alumni go on to high-powered jobs worldwide.

Hmm Kombucha

Net Impact’s Inaugural Impact Trek to Humm Kombucha

Four minutes before 10 o’clock, on a gorgeous sunny day in Bend, Oregon, the UO Net Impact Graduate chapter piled out of Suburus and Priuses onto Humm Kombucha’s lawn to kick off our chapter’s inaugural Impact Trek. Our plan was to use our diverse backgrounds, passion for sustainability, and graduate student can-do-it-ness to offer free sustainability consulting brain power to businesses in exchange for the opportunity to get to know their company and present our ideas to them at the end of the day.  The trip was organized by our president, Katie Clark (who is famous at Humm for dressing as a bottle of their Blueberry Mint Kombucha this past Halloween) and fellow second year Andrea Teslia. The trip was modeled after the UC-Berkeley Net Impact chapter’s Impact Trek to Patagonia in Ventura, CA.

After shaking ourselves IMG_8854out from the two hour drive from Eugene, we were met by Mike and Jeff—our fabulous tour guides, sounding boards, and supervisors for the day.  We started our behind the scenes tour at—where else?!—the Humm taproom where we each tried every flavor they had on tap!  Humm’s taproom has the distinction of having been the first kombucha tasting room in the contiguous US.  One of the first and lasting impressions we got from the factory floor was that everyone was smiling!  People were genuinely having a good time and all along brewing and bottling lines, employees waved, smiled, and offered us bottles of lemon ginger kombucha right off the line.  Everywhere we went at Humm, there was a feeling of operating from abundance.  Everyone we met was generous with their time, generous in their attitudes, and generous with their pours of kombucha.

This feeling of authentic good vibes was very evident in the “fermentation room.”  Kombucha is a fermented drink made by introducing SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) into tea and allowing it to ferment into the effervescent drink many of you are probably familiar with.  Referencing the work of Masaru Emoto—the scientist who discovered that Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 5.06.27 PMwater exposed to pleasant thoughts and words created beautiful crystals when frozen—Mike explained to us that the lavender walls, loving names like “Ulysses” written on the SCOBY drums, and the hand drawn hearts placed here and there were all in an effort to infuse their tea with love.

The tour was all fun and games and kombucha, but, after an hour, we retired to some picnic tables on the front lawn to get to work.  Our task was to offer solutions for the SCOBY and tea waste products that Humm ended up with each week.  Our team brainstormed together and then broke out individually to google, reference class materials, call professors, text ex-colleagues, and follow as many rabbit holes as we could.  After 4 hours of work, we compiled our best ideas to share with Jeff.  In the short term, we shared resources for offsite composting in farm supply markets and onsite composting options.  In the long term, we gave Humm preliminary specs for purchasing and operating an anaerobic digester, either as a community project or on their own.  We also talked about the leadership role that Humm could potentially take in the realm of zero waste and composting.

After a great day of IMG_8872working together, we also made sure Jeff knew that the next time Humm is looking for help with efficiency or sustainability projects, the Center for Sustainable Business Practices would be a great resource for eager, educated, free labor who will happily work for bottomless kombucha!  Net Impact spent the rest of the weekend visiting and working with two other great companies in Bend—Deschutes Brewing (salmon safe hops were an educational highlight!) and Mt. Bachelor Ski Area (whew, this sustainability consulting is sooo rough…!).  On Monday, we all showed up to class tired, but elated from a fun, productive adventure weekend, and craving a tall glass of cold Kombucha.

 

Written by Kate Hammarback

Kate is a 2017 MBA/MPA from the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. Originally from Wisconsin, Kate graduated with honors from the University of Wisconsin with a political science degree and spent time working in state and national politics before pivoting to nonprofit resource and program development. Kate is an active member of LiveMove and Net Impact and is happiest when working at the intersection of policy, planning, and business development through social and sustainable enterprise. After graduation, she plans to work where she can use finance and sustainability strategy to impact the triple bottom line.

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University of Oregon CCFSA Profile – Dougal Williams

Dougal Williams is the chief investment officer at Vista Capital Partners in Portland. He is a University of Oregon alumnus who will be returning to campus on May 11 to share his experience in the financial planning industry. Students will have the opportunity to gain insight into Williams’ responsibilities as well as learn more about how financial markets function. We had the opportunity to ask Williams a few questions in preparation for his upcoming visit:

Can you give me a brief introduction into the roles and responsibilities of the chief investment officer at Vista Capital Partners?

Dougal Williams:  My primary responsibility is to orchestrate and implement Vista’s investment and wealth management research. These decisions are made at the investment committee level, so a big part of my job is to effectively lead this investment team. I also try to be a resource for our firm’s lead advisors and portfolio managers, so they can better serve our clients. We have been fortunate to add a number of great, young people to our staff in recent years, so helping mentor them and positively impacting their professional development is important.  Finally, the passion we exude for our anti-Wall Street, evidence-based investment philosophy has caused a few of our industry peers to label us as “zealots.” If that’s true, then I consider myself Vista’s Chief Investment Zealot.

What would you say is your guiding principle in terms of making financial decisions?

DW:  My dad was a craftsman and he told me to always “measure twice, cut once.” To me, that’s a great basic reminder to always check or test my understanding before undertaking an action. When you’re in charge of someone’s life savings, you can’t be sloppy and make mistakes.

What advice would you give students planning to go into a career in wealth management?

DW: Go for it! Being an investment advisor is rewarding on many levels. First, there is the intellectual stimulation that comes from working in a profession where the playing field changes every day. We get to read, learn, and teach every day. We are also well compensated for the work we do, so it can be a great career that provides financial security and opportunity for a family. Most gratifying, however, are the intimate relationships we build with clients. Seeing our advice help clients through major events in their lives is incredibly rewarding.

What resources did you utilize at the University of Oregon that you would recommend students take advantage of?

DW: Honestly, I probably wasn’t as mature or career-focused as many of the students I’ll be talking to later this week. I was double majoring in economics and Spanish with a minor in sports marketing, and captaining the men’s varsity tennis team. I didn’t have a lot of time to explore many of the resources available to students then or today. My focus was on excelling in the classroom and improving on the tennis court, as I wanted to play professionally for a few years after graduation. My advice would be to find something you’re genuinely interested in and to dive in as deep as possible. You’ll learn a lot and meet interesting people in the process.

Can you give me a brief description of what students can expect to hear from you at Vista Capital Partners’ upcoming visit to campus?

DW:  I hope to share my journey from U of O to where I am today, and what I’ve learned that might be helpful to others. I’m also going to run a little real-time experiment, the results of which should help students better understand how financial markets work and how that underpins Vista’s investment philosophy.

Dougal Williams and Vista Capital Partners will be visiting the UO Financial Management Association on Wednesday May 11 at 6:00 p.m. in Lillis 232. Don’t miss this opportunity to gain insight into the financial planning industry!

Written by UO Business

The UO Lundquist College of Business empowers an engaged community of students, faculty, staff, and stakeholders who create, apply, and disseminate knowledge that contributes significantly to their professions, communities, and society. The college delivers a dynamic learning environment where world-class professors engage and get to know students, where students work on real projects for real companies, and where alumni go on to high-powered jobs worldwide.

Dr. Michael Crooke

Lessons from the Oregon MBA: A Two Part Interview with Oregon Advanced Strategy Professor Dr. Michael Crooke

PART I: Interview with Dr. Michael Crooke, on sustainability, business, and the Oregon MBA. Conducted April 13, 2016 by Anna Raithel, Center for Sustainable Business Practices MBA, 2017.

 

How do YOU define sustainability?

 Sustainability is our ability to deliver the planet in its current state indefinitely into the future. We’re on a path to sustainability but we’re still moving backwards at an alarming rate. Sustainability to me is ultimately the Cradle To Cradle (Michael Braungart and William McDonough, 2002) type of a definition; that we’re consuming only what is grown. It’s like a sustainable forest – the board feet coming off are equal to the board feet being grown, and you can use it in perpetuity. I want people to think about how business has the power to turn things around. If business doesn’t get on board and start developing value chains that win in the competitive arena, then all is lost because that is where the power is. That is why it is so exciting to be talking about sustainability at a business school. Magnificent, off the chart changes happen when Wal-Mart changes packaging for two or three items, in regard to waste and CO2. Or the way Nike changes the way they knit a shoe, or the materials used like waterless dyes. The technology and these products are sustainably superior to what they replaced. That is what will turn things around.

 

How is sustainability integrated into business? What kind of value does it add?

At the University of Oregon we talk about sustainability as being embedded in the value chain of an organization. It’s not something you do “outside”, that after you do good you do well – it’s actually embedded. We feel that the differentiated companies of the 21st century, the ones that have a long term competitive advantage, they will have a rising tide of sustainability embedded in their value chain as part of their value proposition to the customer. Customers of today are becoming more and more sophisticated in terms of which brands they support and are loyal to. Every time the customer touches the brand it has to say the same things. Once you get that trust of the consumer you have a more valuable brand. The customers are willing to pay more and that creates a higher margin. It’s an interesting way to think about sustainability – that you do it because you want to have a competitive advantage, but you also believe in it, it’s part of your values.

 

What makes the Oregon MBA so special?

 We are using business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis. The people who come through our program are going out there and changing the world. They’re doing it one small step at a time but with impact. These are smart, hungry, and aggressive individuals. They’re on a career track, working in situations in which they are highly engaged. They want to be a part of the solution, and business is a big part of that solution. This is a very hands-on, experiential program. When our students step out the doors of University of Oregon they’re ready to go – engaged and contributing from day one.

I came here as a professor for the same reasons. After my business career I was teaching at Pepperdine University and I kept getting pulled back to University of Oregon, and now I can’t imagine being anywhere else. So it happens to the professors too.

 

What do you hope is your students’ main takeaway from their time with you?

 I hope they understand that I’ve made so many mistakes, and when they make mistakes they have to move forward based on their training and their gut. They have to move with their values and at the same time realize that if they don’t take any risks they’re not going to make any mistakes. You can pivot, and you don’t have to get that perfect job right out the gate. It’s going to be a curvy road and if you go with your heart, you have strong ethics and values, you can’t really go wrong. You try to align yourself with like-minded people, with mentors, with people that want to get you up the learning curve quickly. You just don’t know what you’re going to encounter on the journey.

Written by Anna Raithel

Anna is pursuing an MBA with a focus in Sustainable Business Practices, graduating 2017.