The Oregon MBA’s Sustainable Advantage

A few months after the fact, second-year CSBP student Shannon Oliver reflects on her experiences at the Net Impact Conference, and within the OMBA:


For the second year in a row, I’ve been shown that the Oregon MBA in Sustainable Business Practices has been, without a doubt, the right decision for me.

Last year I attended captivating presentations by industry experts, scientists, and decision makers, met countless like-minded students, and was reassured that there was support to help me in my quest for information and experience in this sector.

This year, I had a much different, yet equally inspiring experience.  Instead of soaking up knowledge from every breakout session, I was thrilled to realize that I already knew much of the material that speakers were presenting.  During one presentation, a classmate turned to me and asked “Doesn’t this presenter remind you of [Professor Joshua] Skov?”  How exciting to realize that the professors at your own program are clearly at the top of their field, and would be worthy of presenting at such a prestigious conference. The classes we have taken have already armed us with the skills we will need to go out and be effective agents of change.

In another workshop about valuing ecosystem services, we found ourselves broken out into small groups, each tasked with a case study in which we were to identify all considerations that could have direct or indirect financial considerations for the business in question.  At the end, each team presented their findings to the entire group and, lo and behold, it was the OMBAs in each group that presented the most compelling considerations.  Some might say we had an unfair advantage from our trip to Seattle last April, during which we met with companies like Starbucks and Microsoft and learned firsthand about the environmental considerations that are important to their financial bottom lines.  I call it the OMBA Sustainable Business Practices advantage.  Where students in other programs are able to take a class or two on the broad topic of sustainability, we delve deeper, with courses on Lifecycle Analysis, Energy and Ecosystem Finance, Industrial Ecology, Environmental Law, and Sustainable Supply Chain Management. Our emphasis on experiential learning has given us the opportunity to meet with top executives at international companies to discuss sustainable business best practices and lessons learned.

At this year’s conference, I also utilized the networking and job expo functions. One session allowed me the chance to speak with Kwami Williams of the MIT D-Labs. Kwami and I discussed international development and the challenge of implementing sustainability in developing nations for both environmental and socio-economic gain.  He highlighted many of the challenges that a typical Western approach might easily overlook, as well as key considerations on both cultural and logistical fronts.  The field of international/global development, though not yet well represented within the Lundquist College of Business directly, is one that many of us in the OMBA have been able to explore further through case competitions like the Hult Global Case Challenge, interdisciplinary course offerings, and conferences such as this one.

So mark your calendars for October 2013 in San Jose – whether you’re looking for education, networking, resources, inspiration, a career, or all of the above, you can find it at the Net Impact Conference.

-Shannon Oliver, Center for Sustainable Business Practices, MBA 2013

Written by Andrew White

Andrew is an MBA Candidate in the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. A native of Massachusetts, he came to UO to refine his business skills and build his expertise in the sustainability arena. His primary interest is in helping organizations implement environmentally and socially sustainable strategies for long-term success, and he is a regular participant on many of the MBA intramural sports teams.