Oregon MBA Blog

Salesforce Starts with the ‘Why’

Simon Sinek, author of , ‘Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action’, says that for a company to be successful and truly innovative, they have to know their ‘why’.

A company I believe really ‘starts with the why’ is Salesforce. Looking at Salesforce from the outside, it is simply an IT company. Where Salesforce, and more notably CEO Mark Benioff, excel is explaining the why.

Benioff was quoted as saying, ‘The business of doing business is to improve the state of the world.[1]’ Benioff knows his ‘why’, which is making his business do more than maximize shareholder equity. It also has a genuine commitment to tackling some of the worlds largest social issues like equality, education, and children’s health. His commitment to equality can be seen from distributing 3 million dollars across the Salesforce company to close the pay gap between men and women[2]. Education has been at the forefront of its non profit division of Salesforce.org, where it partners with other non-profits, like Genesys Works, to help high school students from low level backgrounds equip themselves with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in college and a career[3]. Lastly, Benioff’s commitment to children’s health is unquestionable, donating $100 million dollars to found the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital[4].

All of the above examples prove how Benioff’s explanation of the ‘why’ improves the state of the world and gives Salesforce a competitive advantage. When a company’s mission goes above profits, it makes other businesses want to do business with a mission driven company. It also attracts more diverse and vested employees. Sinek stated that, ‘the goal is not to hire people who need a job, but to hire people who believe what you believe… Those that are in pursuit of riches are bound to fail. The people who believe in your organization are willing to work with blood, and sweat, and tears. The others just worked for the paycheck.’[5]

[1] https://www.salesforce.com/blog/2016/08/marc-benioff-decades-top-innovator-forbes.html

[2] http://money.cnn.com/2017/04/04/news/companies/salesforce-equal-pay-women/index.html

[3] http://www.genesysworks.org/model-impact/the-problem/

[4] https://www.ucsfbenioffchildrens.org/about/benioff/

[5] https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=1081&v=u4ZoJKF_VuA

Written by dbrandon

Duran is a 2018 MBA with the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. He is an experienced leader in change management with proven history of creating his own position within organizations. He is passionate about social sustainability and how businesses can use social initiatives to create a competitive advantage for the organization.

Inspiration from the 2018 Global Wave Conference

(View of Cowell’s Beach from the conference, photo courtesy of Save the Waves Coalition)

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the 5th Global Wave Conference in Santa Cruz, CA hosted by the Surfrider Foundation and Save the Waves Coalition. The 3-day conference united ocean scientists, surfers, international NGOs, students, and climate allies (sometimes all 5 wrapped into one person). Perched above iconic Cowell’s Beach, we covered Land and Sea Connection, Protected Areas and Surf, and Climate Change and Innovation. I was inspired by the frankness of the discussion that unfolded throughout the 3 days. Public officials stood in front of the 300-strong crowd and told stories of climate action, and lawyers and scientists from around the world shared tools for protecting marine reserves and the waves we love.

PhD after PhD took the stage and spoke with vigor about the impending climate crisis, yet the morale and drive of the crowd was not broken. An air of hope and optimism flowed through conversations over coffee and the groups huddled in the patches of sun during lunch breaks. Now that I have had a weekend to sit and reflect on the big issues and actions discussed, I can boil it down to three lessons: the need to champion women in the surf industry, action waits for no one, and do not underestimate the power of storytelling.

I had the opportunity to listen to Sachi Cunningham, professor, filmmaker, and ocean champion about her upcoming project, She Change, documenting women in the big wave surfing scene. She spoke with urgency about how the surf industry needs to take a hard look in the mirror about how we represent women on surfboards and in the ocean. Cunningham referenced a 2011 study, “90% of surfers in the US at the time were men. While the number has surely gone up, I know from my time in lineups around the world that there are not enough women in the water.” Cunnignham’s sentiments were echoed by Dr. Krista Cormer, co-founder of the Institute of Women Surfers (IWS), and Captain Liz Clark, sailor, surfer, and author of Swell: A Sailing Surfer’s Voyage of Awakening, Cunngingham closed her talk by challenging everyone in the audience to introduce at least one woman to the water and waves this year.

Dr. Gary Griggs spoke of “measured optimism and radical incrementalism.” Sea-level rise, ocean acidification, the accumulation of plastic in our waterways and oceans – these are issues that everyone can agree on. I was inspired by not only the work that is being done by civil society and the scientists in the room, but also by the private sector. Companies like, Clif Bar, Vissla, Finistere and Sustainable Surf are taking action by reducing their ecological footprints, supporting environmental organizations, innovating with product design and manufacturing, and using their brands as platforms to educate and spur action.

(filmmakers Rodrigo Farais Moreno, Chris Malloy, Sachi Cunningham and Greg MacGillivray)

Lastly, storytelling was a theme throughout the conference. I spent the week listening to the collaborative efforts of companies and NGOs to save Punta de Lobos in Chile from development and to stories of vulnerability and overcoming fear from Captain Liz Clark. I also had the privilege of sitting with filmmakers Sachi Cunningham, Chris Malloy, Rodrigo Farais Moreno, and Greg MacGillivray and listening to their stories of sacrifice and creativity. Storytelling is a powerful part of any toolkit intended to inspire and affect social and environmental change.

Needless to say, I have left the Global Wave Conference inspired with a renewed sense of purpose and resolve that I will take with me into my professional career. To follow the lead of world champion surfer Shaun Thomson and his book I Will, I will explore, surf, and take action to protect the places I love.

Written by sholland

Sam is 2019 MBA with the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. Sam is a self-starter and team builder with 4 years of international development experience specializing in program development and research. Sam is passionate about business because of its ability to have a positive social and environmental impact on communities.

Travel Sustainably

    Photo taken by my scuba instructor, Opal Suthvanich at Koh Tao, Thailand

Growing up in Bangkok, Thailand, I lived in a city that many people from around the world want to visit. They come for the intrinsic culture, beautiful beaches, intriguing activities, sunny weather or maybe just the great general hospitality of the people. Thailand has drawn more than 32.59 million people in 2016, generating tourism revenue of $71.4 billion. The tourism industry has flourished in the past 10 years, thanks to people around the world. I can’t help but smile every time I think back on how I have been able to meet so many people from around the world just in my backyard. Tourism indeed brings about good fortune to Thailand, as well as good memories for visitors and hosts like me.

       Newly Open Water Divers from around the world, Koh Tao, Thailand

Last year in March 2017, I went to Kho Tao, Thailand, in the Southern part of the country to learn scuba diving and to explore the underwater world for the first time. It was one of the most remarkable moments of my life. It reminded me how small we are in this world. It made me wonder: How can we prolong the beauty of nature? How we can maintain the ecosystem? How we can improve the life of the local people in the right way, instead of disrupting nature and ecosystems. It opened my curiosity to explore more sustainable practices within the tourism industry.

In my exploration, I found a lot of great examples of how the tourism industry is pursuing sustainable practices. For instance, Club Med Kani has successfully integrated renewable energy energy conservation thinking into resort operations, reducing its carbon footprint and its impact on the ecosystem of the surrounding areas. This resulted in Club Med installing 67,000 square feet of solar panels on top of the walk ways that connect each villa, making the resort independent of conventional energy generators.

Similarly, Accor Group has recognized the environmental impact from food & beverage waste, using product life cycle analysis of their food waste to develop new ways to make and use food throughout its shelf life. For example, marmalade at Accor sites is made from orange peels that are squeezed to make orange juice in the breakfast buffet. Unconsumed milk is transformed into cheese. Unconsumed pastries are made into puddings.

With the new era of tourism, 54% of the travelers are likely to book hotels or accommodation with the providers that adopt more sustainable and socially responsible practices, according to Trip Advisor. It has given me hope that if the tourism sectors can combine new sustainable technology and innovation to their businesses, they can elevate their practices and provide better solutions and experiences for their customers, community, and environment.

I am hopeful that sustainability can prolong and maintain ecosystems, improve travelling experiences, and enhance the well-being of the communities in all countries around the world that possess many incredible natural attractions, including Thailand.



Written by nuchwara

Nuchwara is a 2018 MBA with the sustainable business practices concentration. With her experiences in importing, exporting and logistics management background, she seeks to explore more of the efficiency operation and how renewable energy can help elevate the supply chain management in terms of, energy usage, water management and waste management. In her free time, she likes to explore more of how sustainability, innovation and CSR can improve the hospitality industry and business practices.

Bridging Gaps: Built Environments and Sustainability


Bridging Gaps: Built Environments and Sustainability

I define sustainability as a series of processes that make up an ecosystem. These processes work together to not only maintain, but enhance or benefit the ecosystem. I believe through innovation and technology that this ecosystem can become circular in its future functions and operations. I define it as a series of processes because sustainability cannot be achieved through one discipline. I think it will be fully achieved when a variety of different expertise work together to create an economically successful and sustainable place for all people to live.

As a concurrent Master of Architecture and MBA student I am specifically interested in the lack of a multidisciplinary approach to sustainability. There is an unfortunate stigma in the built environments that it is not a very sustainable industry. Although there are many projects and building practices that are extremely sustainable, they are not widely used due to their large upfront costs. Often, it is hard to convince a client to make costly upfront investments in their buildings if they are not sure that they will pay off in the future. In actuality, certain building practices such as photovoltaic panels and water catchment will often pay for itself, and then continue to save the client money. To make things worse, there is a huge knowledge gap in the built environments on how to produce and finance different building practices and products. There are many different solar shading devices and different products that can be applied to buildings to significantly reduce their energy footprint. Although, most architects and collaborating manufacturing firms are only focused on the product’s effectiveness, and less about how to market and incentivize consumers within the industry. Architects often fall into the marketing trap of “if I make it people will want it.” With the knowledge and skills gained from an MBA this discrepancy can be better accounted for.

Looking deeper into the built environments, buildings can be net-positive in the sense that they can produce enough electricity to power its own energy needs and still have a surplus left over to give back to the grid or to other nearby buildings. Same goes for water catchment, in areas where rainfall is abundant buildings can collect enough water for their own facilities, while also slowing the watershed in urban settings. This is crucial to understand because it is similar to a carbon tax trade off some companies use to reduce carbon emissions. For example, an airline company many produce a huge amount of carbon emissions, but by planting more trees in a different area, they are reducing their carbon footprint. They are physically still emitting greenhouse gases, but they are trying to give back to the community by planting trees that will sequester carbon in other areas. Similarly, the construction of a building produces many carbon emissions in the fabrication, construction, and treatment phases. Yet, there are many choices a client can make to help their building give back in different aspects of electricity, clean water and biodiversity.

Habitat Island, Vancouver B.C., Canada Photo by: Lindsey Naganuma

Written by lnaganum@uoregon.edu

Lindsey Naganuma is a concurrent Architecture and MBA student with focus on process-based design and sustainable building practices. Background in art history with an emphasis on architectural history. Experience in working in teams and knows the DNA of a good team. Interested in joining a vertically integrated firm and designing client-driven solutions that demonstration the bottom line tomorrow is worth more than the bottom line today.

Collaboration and Innovation – Steps Toward Responsibility in the Apparel Industry

Over the past several years, there has been a societal shift when it comes to food—consumers are checking labels at the grocery store, frequenting farmers’ markets on the weekends, and asking restaurants where they source their meat and produce. This is not a revolution by any means, but a transition to consumer responsibility is happening.

On the other hand, the global apparel and fashion industry is staggering in size, employing 1 in 6 people (True Cost). Yet, in spite of the global reach of the industry, consumers continue to be disconnected from how their clothes are made and where they come from. How can we shift this paradigm? Fortunately, there are many organizations and companies taking responsibility and making positive change through collaboration and innovation.

The Sustainable Apparel Coalition (SAC) has been an amazing unifying entity within the apparel and footwear industry. Connecting fashion brands and outdoor brands under an ambitious goal: “an apparel, footwear, and textiles industry that produces no unnecessary environmental harm and has a positive impact on the people and communities associated with its activities. With this vision, the SAC has successfully introduced the Higg Index, creating tools for brands to measure the impacts and sustainability of their supply chain. I look forward to seeing how brands choose to communicate their Higg Index scores to their consumers in the future.

Industry organizations are a great way for businesses to join forces to combat large issues, however, brands are also taking their own approach to communicating their sustainable mission. Levi Strauss & Co. recently collaborated with Outerknown to produce a capsule denim collection centered water conservation and fiber traceability.

Both of these brands are raising the bar in product sustainability, however where I think they both shine is through their storytelling. Both Levi’s and Outerknown use their garments as a jumping off point to tell a larger story of sustainability – whether that be Levi’s’ Water Less process or Outerknown’s “the hands that build our clothes” graphic tee selection.

Brands are stepping up and taking big steps and risks to better connect their consumers with the story of the garments. It is exciting to see the industry taking steps to produce products more consciously and educate their consumers about the impact of the garments they purchase.

I am drawn to the apparel industry because of the size of the problem that needs to be addressed. There are endless possibilities for improvement and I want to be part of the movement.

Written by sholland

Sam is 2019 MBA with the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. Sam is a self-starter and team builder with 4 years of international development experience specializing in program development and research. Sam is passionate about business because of its ability to have a positive social and environmental impact on communities.

Oregon Companies, Making a Difference

How do you know when you’ve stumbled upon the right place to combine your life passions with your career aspirations?

I grew up in a Marine Corps family, went to college, and then joined the Marine Corps myself. I’ve moved so frequently that I don’t have one particular place I call home. My parents, and ultimately the Marines sent me to Idaho, Virginia, California, Vermont, and Japan. While there are amazing and unique things about each of these places, when it came time for me to pick where I wanted to call home I landed in Oregon.

Over the past five months I’ve tried to articulate what it is that drew me to the “Beaver State”. It was probably a decision rooted in some combination of my affinity for the west coast and a love of all things outdoors. Whatever the reason, I couldn’t be more satisfied with my choice. I’m staying.

As home to one of the top Green MBA programs in the country, it’s no surprise that Oregon businesses are leading the way with sustainable practices. Throughout my time in the program, I’ve had the opportunity to meet with and speak to many business leaders throughout the state. No matter how different a company is from another, they all share a genuine passion for making the right choices.

They have each proven that there are multiple different ways to have a social and environmental impact.

At Humm Kombucha in Bend, there’s a strong sense of connection with the local community who helped build the brand through continued support. As a result, the company is dedicated to giving back and supporting social initiatives.

When I spoke with the Marketing Director at Ruffwear, she emphasized how important sustainability is to their company because it’s just the right thing to do. As a result, they have worked hard to reduce waste at various stages of their supply chain.

Keen Footwear in Portland, invited us to their headquarters in the fall to learn about some of their sustainability initiatives. One major impact area that they are tackling is the reduction of chemicals in their production process.

One of the things I love most about being in Oregon is the culture and passion for good quality coffee. True to Oregon authenticity, the coffee companies I have come across value traceability and responsibility in their sourcing practices.

Choosing Oregon as a home, temporary residence or travel destination is a choice in good consciousness. You can bet that the people, communities and companies are making important and impactful decisions with a genuine passion for sustainability.

Written by bbuckles

Briana is a 2019 MBA with the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. She is an innovative and intellectual professional with four years of leadership and logistics experience from the US Marine Corps. She’s passionate about traceability and responsible sourcing of everyday products.

Sustainability, a Buzz Word at Outdoor Retailer

Outdoor Retailer (OR) is the largest sports expo and conference and is held twice a year, historically in Utah. However, after Patagonia dropped out over Utah state leaders’ opposition to Bears Ears, the industry came together to fight back against the attack on America’s national monuments, and this winter the show was moved Denver. A few of us had the chance to attend last week.

Paul Hawken, environmentalist, author, and activist, opened the show discussing his book Drawdown, The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming. He said, “There’s no such thing as a small solution. It’s a system. It’s the system that causes the problem, and the system that heals it.”

Sustainability was a buzz word at the show this year, however, every brand had their own way of defining it. Some brands are reducing their environmental impact head on, while others seem to be simply greenwashing. As Jeremy Jones, owner of Jones Snowboards said, “This industry is really good at marketing outdoors and the wilderness, and we’re really sub-par at protecting it.” The carbon footprint of the trade show was unfathomable and over 1,000 brands were pushing consumption. However, activists, CEOs, and politicians united to teach workshops on responsible sourcing strategies, what’s next for our nation’s public lands, biomimicry, leading outdoor advocacy through social media, chemical management, and retail activism on climate solutions. The Keen booth even had a “Call to Action” phone booth where individuals could make calls to their state representatives.

Patagonia is not only a leader in the outdoor gear industry but a leader across many industries,  addressing environmental and social issues. This year their environmental + social initiatives report discussed, the importance of regenerative agriculture, searching for PFC-free durable water repellents, protecting public lands, and improving materials with their clean color collection, responsibili-Tee, and recycled down. By building snow garments with recycled materials they diverted 215,435 pounds of factory scraps and plastic bottles from the waste stream. The industry is learning from Patagonia, however, there were many brands promoting their own sustainability initiatives.

Klean Kanteen– The family owned-company that introduced stainless-steel bottles to the industry, Klean Kanteen, a certified B Corporation, is now promoting Klean Coat. With the support of advanced chemical hazard assessment tool, GreenScreen for Safer Chemicals, it took 18 months to develop a powder coat. They went beyond typical standards and reformulated their paint recipes to eliminate ingredients that adversely affect people and the planet, the only bottle company to do so. In addition, the Klean Coat finish is 4x more durable than their previous finish. Click here to hear more from their sustainability manager.

Point6 – The only sock brand in the USA now using NatureTexx Plasma treatment to wash wool without the use of water or chlorine. This new technology simply combines air and electricity (from renewable sources), drastically reducing their impact. Point6 has continued to make their supply chain more efficient, partnered with Soles4Souls to donate all irregular product, and is working on an incentivized product takeback program to upcycle socks into disaster relief blankets.

SOLE – Footwear company, SOLE, adopted ReCORK, North America’s largest natural cork recycling program to use recycled cork in their new product line. They continue to partner with nonprofits and have donated $224,649 to Big City Mountaineers, $198,000 to Protect Our Winters and $198,000 to Karno Kids.

Prana – This year Prana promoted their use of only 100% organic cotton in their line (also running into their denim line). Their dedication to seeking out materials from sustainable sources is reflected in their use of recycled wool, hemp, recycled polyester and recycled down. Prana has partnered with BlueSign since 2012 and reduced 10.6m+ polybags from landfills from their polybag reductive initiative.

Clif BarClif Bar is a leader in the food and outdoor space. 74% of all ingredients are organic, 83% of their waste stream is diverted from landfills or incinerators, and 100% of Clif facilities are green powered. They recognize the importance of regenerative agriculture and have a longtime partnership with Terracycle to upcycle wrappers into new recycled products. Clif recognizes its impact and continues to set carbon reduction and zero waste goals.

Icebreaker – This year Icebreaker released its first 120-page transparency report. The report includes a full list of their NZ stations, grower audits and results, map of their entire supply chain, and packaging materials and quantity. Known for their NZ merino wool, this company is being transparent and even disclosing that when NZ can’t meet their needs, they source from Australia (11%) and South Africa (5%), who also meet their quality and ethical specs. Read the entire report here.

Sea to Summit – When I approached a member of the Sea to Summit team to talk about sustainability, his reaction was skeptical. He wanted to know how I defined sustainability. He didn’t send me to someone in PR like most other companies, he dug deep, and I knew from our insightful discussion that Sea to Summit is taking sustainability seriously. We talked about our concerns for the industry, the footprint of the show, greenwashing, and warranty programs that simply replace products. He told me that although Sea to Summit does not advertise their green initiatives, they continue to look at the life-cycle analysis of products. Their goal is to provide the most durable product, utilize scraps to replace parts for free, and focus on quality and not hitting a particular price point. Although it would beneficial to see more communication from the company surrounding their goals, I was happy to hear members of their team taking sustainability seriously.

Written by staciab

Stacia is an accelerated MBA student focused in sustainability. She spent almost 3 years working in the outdoor gear industry in a marketing role and headed sustainability initiatives. However, after graduating this June, she hopes to pivot into the food industry and work for a company that aligns with her values.

The Power of Young Brands


Recreation in the outdoors inherently connects the user to mother nature. Over time, when we experience weather patterns across various settings, it becomes very difficult to ignore the volatility.

For me, this is a key driver for why I am interested in sustainable business practices specifically focused on the outdoor industry, and I’m not alone. Though a few large brands have immersed their process with a sustainability ethos since their inception, many companies in the industry today with a sustainability focus are quite young. Each one of these companies has arrived in this space by following different paths. Ultimately, they are now all striving to connect their consumer to their message in such a way that the product being sold seems second in importance, a means for the company to survive and fund their mission.

Consumers will continue to buy outdoor apparel and hard goods for the foreseeable future. The traditional methods for manufacturing these items have an immense impact on the environment and the humans physically involved in the process. What if that weren’t the case though? Or, at least the process itself had been fundamentally changed so that inputs no longer drew on new resources and by-products weren’t disposed of in landfills? After walking around at the Outdoor Retailer trade show in Denver this year, the most fascinating part of the show was the lower level where the smaller emerging brands were set up. These small brands, given a fresh start and born out of new form of outdoor consumerism, are doing exactly that to their manufacturing and supply chain. Whether it’s making buttons out of coconuts, planting trees for each garment sold, using scrap materials to build all their product, or replacing plastic flatware with bamboo, the momentum is undeniable.

Looking towards the future, I hope that these young brands continue to push the established ones in the same direction they are focused on. After hearing about their mission and their manufacturing process, I find it difficult to justify why I would buy product from a brand lacking this consciousness. The outdoor industry as a whole should be concerned about its environmental impact as it directly relates its long-term health. Over the next decade, I am confident that the brands who don’t fundamentally adjust their process and their ethos within this industry will be left behind. The change is addictive and purpose driven. In a world where everything seems to be going backwards, it’s very refreshing to see and industry identifying our north star in the darkest of night and sailing towards it full speed.

Written by phazelet

A cat-astrophe in the making: pets and sustainability

Oregon is known for a lot of things: hipsters, rain, hiking, Portlandia, craft beer, lumber…the list goes on. What only locals may realize, however, is how much we love our pets. In fact, 63.6% of Oregonians own a pet and the Eugene-Springfield area has the highest percentage of adults over 18 owning a cat in the country at 49.1 percent, followed distantly by Rochester, NY at 38.2 percent.

As much as we Oregonians like to practice yoga with our dogs and drink coffee in cat cafes, owning and raising a pet doesn’t necessarily align with the “environmentally-conscious” state of mind that we are so proud of. Now, I am a proud owner (or dog mom, if you prefer) of two wonderful rescue pups and I am not about to suggest we end pet ownership. However, there are many steps we can take as responsible pet owners to reduce the environmental pawprint of our furry friends. In this post, I am going to focus on two of those steps: what goes in and what comes out.

Recently, a trend has emerged in the pet food industry encouraging pet owners to buy “human-grade” foods. While I have admittedly uttered the words, “if it’s good enough for my dog, it’s good enough for me” while buying heinously expensive dog food, it is time we re-evaluate whether “human-grade” actually matters.

Perhaps the most obvious place to start is meat, which requires far more resources than plant-based food and puts a strain on the global food system. In fact, if American pets were a country, they would rank fifth in global meat consumption. While it is important for pets to receive adequate protein in their diets, they do not require prime cuts of meat. Instead, the animal byproducts that Americans do not like to eat are perfectly safe for dogs. What is important is that pets receive the right balance of nourishment, not “human-grade” meats.

I became interested in this topic one afternoon as I was picking up dog poop with a plastic bag that had “Save The Earth” printed all over it. Ironic, no? In fact, many dog owners—myself included—simply assume that bags advertised as “compostable” or “bio-degradable” are better for the environment. However, the Federal Trade Commission issued a report in 2015 warning consumers that these claims may be deceptive as there are no labeling guidelines on these packages.

As someone who picks up roughly 300 pounds of poop each year, I had to find a better way than tossing hundreds of bags in the landfill, especially when they are full of poop that could release excess nitrogen and carry disease. What did I find? Well, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, the best way to dispose of pet waste is none other than flushing it down the toilet with other waste.

It is important that pet owners not only evaluate their pet food and waste for environmental impact, but also consider toys, grooming, vet care and even where they find their pets in the first place. While making these changes will likely never lead to a carbon-neutral pet, it will help reduce the environmental pawprint that will allow humans to continue to raise furry friends in the future.

Written by mblake

MacKenzie is an accelerated MBA student focused in sustainability. She is excited about sports apparel and the built environment, as well as animal and low-income causes.

Food & Sustainability

The relationship that individuals have with food is intimate. Some people choose to eat everything, while others choose or may be limited to a vegan, vegetarian, raw, paleo, Atkins, sugar-free, pescatarian, allergy-free, plant-based or gluten-free diet. Food is influenced by culture and society, but have we overlooked a larger implication?

Vermont, photo by Stacia Betley

It turns out that what we eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner is the #1 cause of global warming. The social and environmental impact of food is enormous. The production of food requires land, fossil fuels, chemicals, food for livestock, packaging materials and refrigeration. There is not one solution, however we need to wake up and start asking questions about where our food comes from and what’s in our food. Let’s find a way to eat food that is not only healthier for us, but also healthier for the environment. As Paul Hawken’s book Drawdown – The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming states, “Rather than releasing carbon dioxide and other GHGs into the atmosphere, food production can capture carbon as a means to increase fertility, soil health, water availability, yields, and ultimately nutrition and food security.”

Plant-Based Diets– A University of Oxford study modeled a worldwide transition to plant-based diets between now and 2050 and results show business-as-usual food emissions could decrease by 63%.

Food Waste– ⅓ of food is lost or wasted and 35% of food in high-income economies is thrown out by consumers.

Access– We are currently producing enough food to feed 7.6B individuals globally, however those who are hungry lack access. How do we fight for equal access to food?

Brain Development– How do we demand more thoughtful food in schools?

Price– How do we make organic and transparent food more affordable?

Technology– How are companies using technology and innovation to address issues in agriculture? Check out Microsoft’s FarmBeats, an AI & IoT solution for agriculture.

Health–  There are now more obese people in the world than underweight. A New York Times series, Planet Fat, explores the causes and consequences of rising obesity rates. Hint: big business is to blame. Through taxation, banning targeted advertisements, and increasing consumer labeling, people and governments are starting to fight back.

Cookstoves– 40% of the world’s people cook with carbon-based fuels like like wood and coal, emitting 2-5% of the world’s GHGs annually.

Eco-labelsWhat is an ecolabel and what makes an ecolabel effective? Does a ‘natural’ product have any credibility?

More topics to explore: regenerative agriculture, food composting and silvopasture.

As Michael Pollan say, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Bananas, photo by Stacia Betley


Hawken, P. (2017). Drawdown (pp. 37- 74). New York: Penguin Books.

Sustainable Diets: What You Need to Know in 12 Charts | World Resources Institute. (2018). Wri.org. Retrieved 11 January 2018, from http://www.wri.org/blog/2016/04/sustainable-diets-what-you-need-know-12-charts

Written by staciab

Stacia is an accelerated MBA student focused in sustainability. She spent almost 3 years working in the outdoor gear industry in a marketing role and headed sustainability initiatives. However, after graduating this June, she hopes to pivot into the food industry and work for a company that aligns with her values.