Matt Fanelli

Sustainable Seattle Blog 4: McKinstry

McKinstry started as a small local plumbing business and has scaled up their business to employ 2,000 employees by incorporating every other facet of the construction process. McKinstry’s first contact with customers comes in the form of their consultants and then their engineers. McKinstry then continues to work with customers throughout the construction build, commission, operating and sustainable steps required for efficiency, allowing for a unique strategic advantage. By closing the loop of all the required construction steps from start to finish, McKinstry is able to design every aspect of the project to meet the customer’s needs. It also allows them to innovate because they see all the improvements that could be made in each process.

They have also incorporated sustainability into this process. By both retrofitting existing buildings and constructing new buildings, using sustainable materials, smart technologies, and constructing building, they are one of the industry leaders in sustainable building practices.

McKinstry is now hoping to foster the growth of these technologies and innovations by providing an incubator for start up businesses. This incubator is on-site in Seattle, allowing the start-ups to work with McKinstry employees if desired or to remain separate and use the excellent facility that McKinstry has provided.

-Blake Thompson, 1st-year MBA in the CSBP

Written by Matt Fanelli

Matt is a JD/MBA candidate at the University of Oregon with a focus on sustainable business practices. He loves food, music, and a good beer. After graduating in the spring, he plans to get a job that affects positive change in his community.

Sustainability has a big problem

Sustainability has a big problem. On the last day of the Oregon MBAs’ trip to Seattle, the Center for Sustainable Business practices broke off from the rest of our peers and went to Edelman Consulting, a public relations firm in the shadow of the Space Needle. There we listened to Josh Chaitin of Edelman Consulting and Kevin Wilhelm of Sustainable Business Consulting speak to a group of public relations professionals about the challenges sustainability faces and their strategies for “making sustainability stick.” We could tell that everyone in the room had experience in the field of sustainability by the collective nods when Mr. Wilhelm and Mr. Chaitin started talking about lack of institutional buy-in and engagement failures. Similar challenges and failures were written on faces around the room in wry smiles and frowning nods.

Behind all that frustration is our collective conclusion that sustainability is a fundamentally good value system. Sure, money may make the world go ‘round, but if we do not make said money in a sustainable way, we’re going to bring ruin down on the future of our world. Climate change, biodiversity collapse, ocean acidification, freshwater poisoning, the list of our current environmental problems is long and terrifying. At its heart, sustainability exists to prevent this destruction.

Here at the University of Oregon’s Center for Sustainable Business Practices, we learn how to make the business case for sustainability. Give us some numbers and we’ll analyze payback periods, supply-chain cost reductions, and maybe even check some boxes for your Global Reporting Initiatives report. But while these are valuable tools and are hard skills that can improve business, Mr. Wilhelm and Mr. Chaitin agreed that they don’t solve sustainability’s real problem.

Marketing. Which, if you haven’t deduced by now, is sustainability’s big problem. Mr. Wilhelm’s excellent book Making Sustainability Stick is an excellent and comprehensive how-to guide for practitioners. His principles and steps for aligning marketing message with a sustainable purpose should be a must read for anyone working in business period. Mr. Chaitin held up Dove’s Real Beauty campaign, Chipotle’s The Scientist ad, and Starbucks’ Shared Planet marketing plan as good examples of how linking a company’s purpose and values with great stories are highly profitable.

The message from our visit to Edelman is that communication is key. Know your audience, know your customers, know your (company’s) self. And craft your message to persuade them. Only when we communicate well to all of the stakeholders in and outside the company will sustainability truly become the norm.

Written by Matt Fanelli

Matt is a JD/MBA candidate at the University of Oregon with a focus on sustainable business practices. He loves food, music, and a good beer. After graduating in the spring, he plans to get a job that affects positive change in his community.

Sustainable Food Startups

The Sustainable Food Business Panel on Thursday, November 7th, gave the fifty-plus students who attended a lot of food for thought. The panel presented how their businesses incorporated sustainability, how they incorporated employees into their business models, and where they see the future of sustainability. These points came from both large international companies like Mountain Rose Herbs and small new start-ups like Green Zebra Grocery, from Portland, Oregon. The panelists were Shannon Oliver, an Oregon MBA alumna and co-founder of Red Duck Ketchup; Micah Elconin, program supervisor of SPROUT! and an Oregon MBA alumnus; Lisa Sedlar, Founder of Green Zebra Grocery and former CEO of New Seasons Market; Shawn Donnille, V.P. and co-owner of Mountain Rose Herbs, and Eric Jones of Mycological.

What piqued my interest was the discussion on employees. All the panelists were V.P.’s or CEO’s of companies so they understood the importance of employee satisfaction. Two of the most interesting positions on employee satisfaction came from Lisa Sedlar of Green Zebra Grocery and Shawn Donnille of Mountain Rose Herbs. Mountain Rose Herbs has put a cap on their CEO’s salary, which limits the salary to be no more than 3.5 times that of the lowest paid employee. Mountain Rose Herbs also offers incentives for those who bike to work. One of the biggest contributions it offers its employees and the community is the Paid-Time For Community Involvement Program. This program allows employees to manage roughly 6-8 community projects per year and get paid their full wage while doing so. Green Zebra Grocery just opened its first store early October, and it sounds like a place that would we all would like to shop and work. Since day one, Green Zebra has had an open book policy with its employees. This policy allows employees to see all the financials of the company. Sedlar then gathers employees periodically and educates them on the financials and where improvements could be made, allowing employees to weigh in with ideas. It will be interesting to see if this policy continues as the company flourishes. In the meantime, employees also get to take home the extra food that was freshly prepared by the chefs at Green Zebra. A pretty big perk if you ask me.

The panel was both insightful and interesting and I would like to end with a quote that Eric Jones of Mycological offered, “don’t make as much money as you can, live your life as rich as you can.”  That is a philosophy to chew on as you move through life.

 

GO DUCKS!

 

Blake Thompson

 

Written by Matt Fanelli

Matt is a JD/MBA candidate at the University of Oregon with a focus on sustainable business practices. He loves food, music, and a good beer. After graduating in the spring, he plans to get a job that affects positive change in his community.

What’s Your Apple?

In the opening keynote speech at this year’s Net Impact Conference, Caryl Stern, the CEO for UNICEF, read a story from her newest book. Ms. Stern was traveling in North Africa with UNICEF and had stopped in a remote region to shoot some B-roll footage for a documentary based on UNICEF’s work. With her back resting against the bottom of a hill, Ms. Stern saw a young woman and her small child walk over the crest. Seeing the telltale signs of hunger and poverty, Ms. Stern offered the woman an apple from her pack. With tears in her eyes, the young woman bowed low, accepted the apple, and left Ms. Stern moved.

Caryl Stern told the eager crowd of thousands of students and professionals in the San Jose Convention Center that we all had an apple to give. “If you’re a writer, write. If you’re an artist, paint. If you’re a parent, teach. Use the skills that you have to make the world a better place.” While she spoke from a nonprofit perspective, her point applied to the message of the conference as a whole. Net Impact’s conference motto this year was “Change Starts With . . . .” While the conference filled in the blank with words like Leadership, Network, and Dialogue, it just as easily could have said the Change Starts With Your Apple.

With that powerful story, the University of Oregon Net Impact Chapters descended on breakout sessions and panels to find how we could use our apples to make a positive impact on the world. We collectively attended panels on supply chain issues, leadership messages from “not your grandma’s CEOs,” microfinance entrepreneurs, educational revolutionaries, disruptive technology in sustainable agriculture, and countless others. We learned that sustainability isn’t just a buzzword, but that it must permeate the very core of a company, no matter whether your focus is on finance, entrepreneurship, accounting, or marketing.

We may not have found all the answers just yet, but for those of us who were lucky enough to attend Net Impact 2013, we may have discovered our apple.

Written by Matt Fanelli

Matt is a JD/MBA candidate at the University of Oregon with a focus on sustainable business practices. He loves food, music, and a good beer. After graduating in the spring, he plans to get a job that affects positive change in his community.