SPRNG 2015

Net Impact is something of an intriguing mystery. At first glance, the name doesn’t necessarily describe what the club is about, but one step into one of their club meetings or events and the name suddenly makes sense.

Sustainable business. What is it? On whose standards is business sustainable? These questions and the reasons people take to combine the two are explored in Net Impact. One annual event they put on expresses sustainable business in the best way possible.

The 3rd Annual SPRNG Conference took place in at the UO White Stag Block in Portland on Thursday, April 23. The event brought together university students, faculty, and speakers representing industries as diverse as finance, non-profit, and architectureto share and explore how business can be sustainable. This year’s theme focused on sustainability in unexpected places, and it was brought to life through the speaker’s stories of challenge and triumph.

The night opened with a live jazz band as the backdrop to an in-depth networking reception where students, speakers, and representatives from various Pacific Northwest sustainable businesses could meet and learn from each other.

The first keynote speaker was Amy Jarvis, a mechanical engineer at ZGF Architects, a firm whose mark is felt on the UO campus through projects such as the Jacqua Center and Casanova Center. Jarvis explained how the design stage is the point at which all environmental impacts can be reduced from the get-go. Instead of mitigating the effects of polluting buildings, why not eliminate the polluting factors in the design stage? She also explained the use of eco-districts, the practice of deliberately integrating resources and materials within the existing network of a downtown or community area. New hospital under construction and it needs a rehabilitation fitness center? Partner with the local YMCA for this service to conserve space, build less, and forge community relationships.

The conference further explored sustainable business through a panel discussion of the sharing economy. Jim Huston of the Portland Seed Fund and Oregon Public Broadcasting moderated a diverse panel that included David Kenney of Oregon BEST; Carrie Hearne of Climate Solutions; Franklin Jones of B-Line Sustainable Urban Delivery; Carolynn Duncan of the Northwest Social Venture Fund; and Holly Meyer of NW Natural. The panel was illuminating and was a powerful expression of sustainability in unexpected places.

The night closed out with Justin Zeulner of the Green Sports Alliance. He spoke to the power and message of sports and how it can be effectively leveraged to incite meaningful impact that benefits the environment and communities.

The unexpectedness of the evening’s theme had a parallel in the unexpected source of the conference’s organizers: speakers and professionals attending the conference were surprised to learn that undergraduate students were not only the hosts and but also the team that developed the conference. The Net Impact Undergraduate Chapter not only represented the University of Oregon positively it also inspired SPRNG attendees with a call to action and left them with a better understanding of sustainable business.

—Patrick Wrobel ’15

About Patrick: I am graduating this spring with a double major in accounting and geography. In Net Impact at first I was an observer, content to get along with the other members but not really commit to anything. Then I attended the first SPRNG conference and decided to get involved. I spent my junior to senior year as the VP of finance and operations directing major projects such as the coffee shop sustainability survey and the second SPRNG Conference. Finally I took the reins, surprising myself as president of the undergraduate club. It has been a fine experience that included its share of challenges and triumphs, but it definitely gave expression to the fact that anything worth anything is at least a little bit challenging.

I will be moving up to Portland to start work at an accounting firm. My dream career is to create something people will love in an area that did not know it needed it. In all honesty, I would be content grilling the best fish tacos on the West Coast, in a space attached to a craft brewery which I would also operate.

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.