Center for Sustainable Business Practices

Don’t Forget About Your Company’s Best Ally: Culture

Do you work for a startup company that is forming its business foundation? A mid-size company experiencing growing pains as they scale-up? Or a large company hoping to make a major organizational shift?  At all levels, you may be focusing on the numbers, the what and the how; but are you remembering to think about the why? At the core of your business lies the company’s mission, values, and culture. Every leader in the company surely knows the why — why did we open, why is what we do important, and the why behind each and every thing that we do.  Too frequently though, this simple why is not a part of a company’s process. This blog will break this down into three simple steps crucial to leading your company through challenges that you may be facing, with culture as your key ally in the process.

Step 1) Align: You – the leader – are facing a dilemma. Before you act, first look at the why. As a leader, you eat, sleep and breathe the mission, values, and strategy of your company, but have you thought about this dilemma in the context of the bigger issues? Too often we approach a micro-problem with a micro-solution, when really, this small problem is an indicator of an opportunity for a macro-solution. Take for example, in the context of a growing startup, an employee who is complaining about not knowing the guy who works across the desk from him. Your knee-jerk solution might involve introducing the two. Consider, however, that this may be an indicator of something more going on;  could it be a micro-example of the growing pains that your small business is experiencing as the culture of the company is changing?  Is this evolving work culture in alignment with your company’s strategy?  Before reacting to this scenario, you have the opportunity to reflect on the challenges of growth that your startup is facing and what cultural implications these may have.

Step 2) Ask: Our earlier example feeds nicely into step two. You need to take inventory of the rest of your employees. How is the growth feeling from their perspectives? What is their perception of the company’s culture?  In fact, from a social constructivist point-of-view, the company’s culture is defined – even created – by the mutual understanding of your company’s social values across employees. You really need to know the culture, inside and out, and employee engagement is fundamental to this understanding.  Don’t forget to find out the good along with the bad; it is all a part of the organizational culture and will be important in our last step.

Step 3) Adapt: The last step is to evaluate and decide how to evolve as a company. If your business is changing, maybe it’s necessary to accept the hard realization that the culture you started with might just need to change too. Or, on the contrary, if your original culture is still key to your company’s mission and values, then maybe you don’t need to change the culture but instead must figure out how to sustain it within your growing company. Whichever direction you go, realize that a company is never static, and neither is its culture. Cultural adaptability could be the missing puzzle piece for how your startup can grow, but to find that piece, you must start from step one.

Now that you understand these three steps, bring them to whatever dilemma your company is facing and view it with a fresh perspective. You have the opportunity to influence your company’s culture in a way that will reinforce your company’s mission, values and strategy. The result? A long-lasting company with a differentiated and ever-evolving organizational culture.

This blog was inspired by a class assignment developed for the Management Individuals and Organizational (MGMT612) course lead by Dr. Reut Livne-Tarandach.

Written by Leah Wheeler

Leah is a 2018 MBA from the Lundquist School of Business at the University of Oregon. Her interest in integrating sustainability into common business practices led her to choose the Center for Sustainable Business Practices, ranked #1 Green MBA. Originally from Washington, she graduated from Whitman College with a degree in Economics then worked in healthcare management for the majority of her career. After her MBA, she plans on combining her work experience in management with her passion for socially and environmentally responsible business practices by working for a company that shares her values.

Students Motivated to “Make History” at 2016 Net Impact Conference

The first weekend in November was a busy one for those of us who are student members of Net Impact at the University of Oregon.  Twenty of us—first and second year Oregon MBAs and undergraduates in business, environmental studies, journalism, psychology and economics—flew across the country to participate in the 2016 Net Impact Conference from November 2 to November 5 in downtown Philadelphia.

Net Impact is an international membership organization of over 100,000 students and professionals who are interested in the intersection of business and social or environmental impact.  The theme of this year’s conference was “Make History” and included a wide variety of keynote speakers like Alicia Garza, Co-Founder of #BlackLivesMatter, Jay Coen Gilbert, Co-Founder of B Lab, and Doug McMillon, President and CEO of Wal-Mart.  Beyond the content of the conference, the opportunity to network with students from all over the country is a huge part of the value of attending the conference.

Eddie Rosenberg, a second year MBA student in the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship put it this way: “While the presentations, workshops, and cheesesteaks were amazing, the most impactful part was being with a community of incredibly smart, driven, and environmentally/socially engaged students.  There are a lot of bad things in the world and big challenges to overcome…meeting and working with this group of Net Impacters gave me hope and more momentum to make a difference.”

The UO contingent was unique in its own right because of our make-up of undergraduates, first year MBAs, and second year MBAs—few other schools we talked to made such an effort to connect with each other across years.

uo-red-eye-crew-on-way-to-philly

The UO Undergraduate Net Impact Chapter is a powerhouse of active students and a full schedule of club activities.  The undergraduates not only draw important industry speakers like former Patagonia CEO, Michael Crooke to their weekly meetings, but also host their own one-day conference each year at the UO.  The consensus from the undergraduates was generally that the conference had renewed their motivation and (already impressive) energy to promote the work of sustainability in business.  Audrey, a junior in advertising and the Vice President of the Public Relations for the UO undergraduate chapter summed it up when she shared that “The Net Impact Conference has provided me with opportunities to continue the movement and create an impact within our community.”

The Graduate Chapter was recognized as a Gold Chapter again this year and also kept busy by organizing a West Coast Net Impact Chapter Meetup with MBA programs from University of Washington-Evans, Willamette University, and University of Colorado—Leeds.

Our three brave first year MBAs had only been with the program a little over a month when they headed to the conference.  It can feel like drinking from a firehose with the incredible amount of information available and the packed schedule of speakers and activities, but all three enjoyed the experience. Ben, a first year MBA in the Center for Sustainable Business Practices, shared that his main takeaway was “how much acceptance sustainability is gaining in the corporate world. Major players are leading the way now.” His classmate Leah echoed that sentiment, sharing that she was impressed by “how integrated sustainability is becoming in the corporate world.  It is something that most companies these days are considering and many across all operations.”

This trip marked the second Net Impact Conference for all of my fellow-second years who attended and I was curious to hear what they thought of the experience being now “older and wiser” than we were just a year ago.  Andrea, a second year MBA in the Center for Sustainable Business Practices and Treasurer of the Graduate Chapter shared her impressions:  “[The] biggest thing for me was the shift in how businesses are developed.  Entrepreneurs are looking at what problems need to be addressed, then building a business to fix the issue.  Also, [there’s a] definite shift away from siloed sustainability departments.  [You] have to have sustainability in all teams.”  Second years also came to the conference this year with a clearer focus on networking and jobs.  Anna, a second year MBA in the Center for Sustainable Business Practices and the President of the UO Graduate Chapter heard some surprising advice: “I loved that both presenters on the sustainable apparel panel told us to not go out and get jobs with sustainability in the title—that we would be more effective implementing these practices in other industries/departments/projects.”

It was an action-packed three-day weekend in Philly listening to well-known keynote speakers, engaging with panels of sustainability professionals, participating in applied case scenarios and eating a lot of pretzels, cheesesteaks, fried chicken, and ice cream served on a doughnut!  Most of the group even arrived early enough Thursday to see the Liberty Bell, the LOVE statue, and accidentally stumble upon the house where Thomas Jefferson signed the Declaration of Independence.  The knowledge gained from the 2016 Net Impact conference, and the powerful, evocative location, accomplished its mission of inspiring this group of University of Oregon Students to go forth and help make history!

all-uo-students-repping

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.

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 in Bend working with Mt. Bachelor Ski Area (whew, this sustainability consulting is sooo rough…!) and visiting Deschutes Brewing (salmon safe hops were an educational highlight of the tour!).  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.

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.

3 snapshots into the Center for Sustainable Business Practices MBA tour to San Francisco

At the end of March, the Oregon MBA offers our spring experiential learning business tour to San Francisco. During the week-long visit students are able to network with companies around the bay area and gain perspective on their industry from a diverse set of professionals. In this post three Center for Sustainable Business Practices students provide a brief glimpse into a few of their favorite visits. Big thanks to the contributing authors.

Green Sport Alliance

By Ben Fields:

While on our experiential learning trip to San Francisco the we had the opportunity to meet with Erik Distler, Senior Resource Specialist with the Green Sport Alliance. We gathered with Erik on a sunny day in Yerba Buena Gardens. He was keen to explore our unique backgrounds and interests related to sustainability, as well as share both his professional background and the personal journey that took him from Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC0 to the nonprofit world.

Erik described how his time in sustainable consulting at PwC gave him the tools to communicate the business arguments for sustainable business practices. His ability to not only present a business case for sustainable practices, but also help PwC’s clients communicate their stories around sustainability, enabled Erik to become an invaluable asset. This storytelling ability is what opened his opportunity with the Green Sports Alliance where he now brings sustainability to the sporting world and beyond through partnerships with ESPN. Erik related how he has seen demand grow and discussed future opportunities as the field continues to develop.

After listening to our stories, Erik described how stories from his journey with sustainable business could help us understand the landscape from a professional view. He provided unique prospective and insight to help us understand how to leverage our experience in the Center for Sustainable Business Practices to find our place in this changing climate of sustainable business. Meeting with Erik allowed us time for introspection about the opportunities in front of us and provided inspiration about what the future may hold.

Facebook

By Max Fleisher:

On Wednesday morning, March 30th, we braved the impossibly traffic-free 101 to visit with the Sustainability team at Facebook HQ. Our host was Lyrica McTiernan, Sustainability Manager, who was joined by Louisa Smythe McGuirk, Sustainability Analyst. Lyrica has been at Facebook for over 5 years, and has witnessed what she described as a “journey of maturity of understanding of sustainability at Facebook”. Louisa is primarily focused on metrics, measuring how FB is progressing on its sustainability goals. Her first project involved calculating Facebook’s carbon footprint, the 5th time such an assessment had been completed. The primary goal in doing the carbon footprint is identifying the most actionable items for the largest impact. Facebook currently does not do specific reporting like GRI, and the general consensus is the time and energy required is not worthwhile. The scope of carbon reporting is expanding as Facebook moves into consumer technology with their acquisition of Oculus.

Facebook Campus

Facebook Campus

Lyrica and Louisa walked us through their large (and growing) department, highlighting both the breadth and depth of the team, with key focuses of data center design, energy efficiency, and water use. These foci make sense given the sustainability team’s placement within the infrastructure department. Facebook is building a number of new wholly owned data centers, and Lyrica is involved with the design of the facilities to incorporate new technologies like swamp cooling to reduce energy and water use intensity. There is an overall goal at Facebook to reach 50% clean and renewable energy by 2018. Lyrica emphasized that this is only an interim goal, meant to be achievable in a reasonable timeframe. We were left with the tenet: “Sustainability is future proofing.”

Sustainable Accounting Standards Board (SASB)

By Joey Jaraczewski:

On Thursday March 31st, the Oregon MBA had the good fortune to meet with the Sustainable Accounting Standards Board (SASB). SASB seeks to be the sustainable complement to the 10-K annual report by creating the standards by which public entities can measure and report their Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) efforts. Put another way, where FASB standardizes how companies report their financial accounting, SASB standardizes how companies identify and report their sustainability track record. These standards provide information that is decision-useful and complementary to financial accounting information. Put another way, SASB is making an awesome contribution to the stewardship of people, planet, and financial returns.

The CSBP came to SASB at an amazing time. The day before our visit, SASB had released the last of eleven sets of provisional standards to the public, marking the end of a four-year process of creating and tinkering. SASB was proud to show off their Materiality Map which reporters could use to identify what to report. This Materiality Map is important for streamlining standards into the market.

These standards are coming to a receptive marketplace, as there is a clear trend towards more comprehensive reporting of ESG from the public and private sectors. In Europe, the EU is mandating that their member states report on ESG metrics. Meanwhile, in the United States, investors clamor for greater transparency and accuracy of corporate sustainability reporting. There are certainly hurdles ahead of SASB, however, the information that standards are trying to capture is crucial for markets to gain greater long-term efficiency. Indeed, many stakeholders across the value chain are coming to realize the importance of a company’s relationship with the environment and employees.

CSBP visits San Fransisco

The Center for Sustainable Business Practices MBA

The release of the provisional standards also represents an area of opportunity for MBA students through SASB certification in the Fundamentals of Sustainability Accounting (FSA). Achieving FSA Certification would be beneficial training for students that are considering careers in sustainability. Furthermore, holding certification creates a critical edge of expertise in a market clamoring to understand the role of ESG in investing.

Written by Natalie Colvin

Natalie is a 2016 MBA from the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. The experience of living abroad in Costa Rica, instilled in Natalie a passion for improving the world. After completing her MBA, she hopes to bring this passion to a career in corporate environmental and advocacy campaigns. Natalie received a dual undergraduate degree in development anthropology and Latin American studies from the University of Arizona honors college where she was also on the equestrian team.

Catalyst

Snow was falling softly on the ground in the parking lot outside of the police station as my phone went off. I had just finished a meeting with Flagstaff PD regarding their strategy of “community policing” in the wake of a fallen officer. The meeting still on my mind, I answered a call from Paul Allen, UO’s Director of Admissions, which led to my acceptance into Oregon MBA. As I started my car and defrosted my windshield, I breathed a victorious sigh. I was going to business school.

Some might say that I had a wild roving youth, and one which doesn’t translate well to paper.

Singing for 'We Were There' in winter 2014

Singing for ‘We Were There’, winter 2014

Recognizing this shortcoming, I threw myself into creating the case for why I was a prime candidate to leave my current path and get on the Oregon trail. All of my community-college-attending, essay-editing, resume-tweaking, and GMAT re-taking efforts were steps toward rebranding myself and building that case. The funny part of the whole process? It’s what doesn’t translate well to paper that translates best to the program itself.

A large part of our discussions at Oregon are retrospective and reflective. Every day we are encouraged to synthesize our considerable learning in the light of our direct experience. After all, if you cannot find personal relevance with the material, you will not understand it properly. Different minds subjected to different training, interpret the same data differently (duh). The fun part of the program is collaborating with my peers to combine these interpretations and create additional value.

It is here that I find that my wide and varied skill set aids me most. My background in education allows me to facilitate group discussion for effective decision-making. My work as a tour manager aids me immensely in understanding accounting and finance, while experience as an event planner gives me the linear mindset required for project management. I draw from my time as a punk rock front man to be a commanding presenter, and my experience in the tattoo industry taught me that innovation is iteration. Buffalo Wild Wings taught me supply chain, while Criollo Latin Kitchen taught me supply chain integration. Hosting taught me capacity management, serving taught me how to segment markets, and bartending showed me that hustle is scarce and hunger is your greatest asset

Visiting Theo Chocolate with the OMBA, winter 2016

Visiting Theo Chocolate with the OMBA, winter 2016

Most importantly, however, was the time I spent as a crisis responder for victim’s rights. Becoming a crisis responder was one of my last projects before coming to the OMBA, inspired by last year’s civil unrest and a heightened consciousness of gender issues. Crisis response taught me that risk is ever present and many a well thought out deal goes bad. Crisis response causes me to remember that there is a much larger world outside of the Oregon MBA, one which is created at the community level, and one which demands conscious change agents.

If I could, I would go back to that parking lot and ask myself, “How does your experience color the way you process information? How do you leverage your insight into effective leadership? How do you find freedom in focus?” The answers to these questions are those which show a person’s true quality beyond their worth on paper. Yet, I know I would never have been able to answer them before coming here.

Written by Joey Jaraczewski

Jaraczewski joins the Oregon MBA with a passion for changing the food industry. He grew up in rural Arizona and has spent the past four years exploring the world of food from multiple angles. He’s worked as a server and bartender in Flagstaff and traveled across the country visiting farms, feedlots, food distribution warehouses, and retailers. As an Oregon MBA on the sustainability track, Jaraczewski plans to build on that experience to explore ways to build a more sustainable food system for generations to come. Jaraczewski will graduate as an Oregon MBA with the class of 2017.

Green is the New Black

What do a clothing retailer and a premium chocolatier have in common? A lot more than I thought!

On the Oregon MBA’s recent experiential learning trip to Seattle, I got to see two very different businesses both using environmental responsibility to grow their bottom line—Green Eileen through post-consumer product responsibility and Theo Chocolate through supply chain management.

For the first visit, we headed south to Seattle’s Columbia City neighborhood looking for the west coast retail outlet of Green Eileen–Eileen Fisher’s “recycled clothing initiative.” The Green Eileen arm collects, processes, and sells already worn Eileen Fisher clothing in excellent condition—called “seconds” by Green Eileen. I was expecting the store to feel and look like a second hand store, but it has a boutique, spa-chic feeling and features a revolving dry cleaning rack that adds an industrial design element to their inventory display.

Green Eileen TourWe met with Megan Arnaud, Retail Leader in Seattle, who shared her impressive depth of knowledge about the overall corporate responsibility mission of Eileen Fisher. She acknowledged, “We are a teeny tiny tip of an incredibly big iceberg,” within the overall clothing industry, but “we feel a responsibility for the whole lifecycle” of their products. Eileen Fisher is not only committed to environmental responsibility, but are also using their “seconds” to open a new sales market. The Green Eileen model serves as a new, more effective, way to reach a younger market segment—a demographic Eileen Fisher would like to reach, but currently doesn’t have in its traditional customer base.

Over in the Green Eileen recycling center in a very cool old warehouse in the SODO area of Seattle, we met Patty Liu, Recycling Program Leader at Green Eileen. It was impossible not to get excited as she drove home the possibilities inherent in thinking nimbly about dealing with Eileen Fisher “seconds.”  Through the Green Eileen store, pop-up sales at the recycling center warehouse, and planned expansions to factory stores and internet sales, Green Eileen is reaching previously untapped demand for high quality, sustainable fashion from a younger market segment. By embracing the challenge to internalize responsibility for the entire lifecycle of their products, they have started to create a new market for both their product and their mission. Patty shared, “You really have to invest and believe in what you’re doing to drive other people to see value.”

Theo Chocolate TourLater in the afternoon, across town in the Fremont neighborhood, we piled out of the van into the Theo Chocolate Factory and outfitted ourselves with hairnets and beardnets to begin a tour inside the closest thing any of us will ever come to Willy Wonka’s factory. Our tour guide was knowledgeable, funny, and generous with the chocolate samples as we learned Theo’s history and current supply chain processes and commitments. Feeling worlds away from the retail fashion world, I nonetheless started hearing a very similar story from what we had heard in the morning—taking environmental and social responsibility for your product can help you reach whole new market segments and grow your bottom line. While Green Eileen is focused on Eileen Fisher’s post-consumer product responsibility, at Theo, their focus is on supply chain responsibility.

Theo uses both direct interaction and third party certification to ensure social and environmental responsibility at every single step of its supply chain. Of their suppliers, our tour guide explained, “People want to work with us because there’s the immediate benefit of people making more money,” due to the higher price premium fair trade and organic ingredients command. On the customer side, Theo enjoys a price premium compared to conventional chocolate bars, but tries to keep the price point at a level that is accessible for people to treat themselves.

MBA Seattle trip 2016The biggest take away from the day (besides the six pounds of chocolate samples I ate throughout the tour) was a reinforced appreciation for social and environmental sustainability as a powerful business tool to drive both mission-related impacts AND a company’s bottom line. Despite the competitive advantage both companies enjoy from their practices, it was energizing to hear both companies’ desires to share the lessons and tools they’ve found along the way with others in their industries. In Patti’s words, “Do I hope other companies will see what we’re doing and try to do it, too?  Well, yeah!!”

 

 

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.

#MyOutdoorStory an Outdoor Industry Association Movement

#MyOutdoorStory

 

“Each of us has a story—unique in its particulars but ubiquitous in its theme—about how we fell in love with the outdoors. The first time you went camping, your first job at a local outdoor retail shop, the piece of gear that saved or changed your life, the ‘aha’ moment when you realized that you were an outdoorist.” So begins the Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) article on the #MyOutdoorStory campaign trying to collect and archive the unique stories and perspectives that create the industry’s soul.

During the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market January 5th-9th the OIA set up a mountain gondola in the middle of the expo floor for attendees to record their stories. Thanks to the Oregon MBA I was in attendance and while chatting with OIA employees was convinced to add my aspiring outdoor industry member’s voice to the mix (see the text version of my interview below).

I was also fortunate to chat with Todd Walton, the Marketing Communications Manager from the OIA and the brains behind #MyOutdoorStory, to get a little background on the initiative.

The idea for #MyOutdoorStory was strongly influenced by the StoryCorps movement because people like telling their stories and the outdoor industry is built on stories from iconic brands OIA Micstarted on the tops of mountains, with the sole purpose to enable the founders to be outside more. We all know these stories, but what about the hundreds of others that make up the industry? #MyOutdoorStory was built to capture those stories, from retail employees, to CEOs. These stories bind us together as an industry, they are what makes the outdoor industry special. As Walton says, “You can never replicate the lessons learned being outside.”

Although Walton was concerned that the initiative might not be successful, the old gondola turned sound booth couldn’t help but draw people in. In all they averaged 20-30 interviews per day over the four days of the tradeshow and became a highlight of the expo floor.

The best thing about #MyOutdoorStory is that it isn’t going to end with the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market. OIA has plans for people to continue posting 1-2 minute sound clips on the website to continue to capture these stories. OIA hopes to grow #MyOutdoorStory beyond the outdoor industry because telling these stories crosses barriers and breaks people out of their shells. “In the gondola there were people who broke down in tears and plenty of roaring laughter,” Walton said. “No matter what the tone, every unique story captured a piece of the person telling it, their passion was palpable.”

#MyOutdoorStory GondolaRead on if you’re interested in a text version of my experience in the gondola and go to #MyOutdoorStory to check out sound clips of others.

Deborah Williams from the OIA and I stepped into the gondola, she handed me a mic and told me keep answers short but to have fun with the interview.

“What was your first experience with the outdoors?” she asked me.

“I was lucky to grow up along a greenbelt in Portland, Oregon and my youth is full of stories exploring this forest, building forts, climbing trees, and playing make believe. During the summers we would go camping at lakes in the Cascades and on the Oregon coast. I’ve always loved water. I would splash around and pretend I was a mermaid any chance I could.”

“What brought you to Outdoor Retailer?”Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2016

“I’m a Sustainable Business MBA student at the University
of Oregon getting ready to graduate. I was invited to attend the Sustainability Working Group meetings yesterday and was excited to come learn more about collaborative efforts like the HIGG Index and Responsible Down Standard, as well as meet people who are actually working on the tough environmental and social issues we study.”

“Do you have a moment you consider your ‘aha’ moment that you realized you were an outdoorist?” was the next question.

“You know, I would have to say the moment I connected with surfing.” I pause thinking of all the amazing surfing memories I’ve had. “Surfing to me is a way to connect with something bigger than myself. You have to become one with nature and the waves to be successful. You have to learn to understand the subtle nuances, read the ocean, make your best guess, and then just go for it. I’ve come close to extreme danger while surfing more times than my mom would like to know. But being in the ocean has taught me more than anything else in my life. It’s taught me patience and living in the moment, how to read subtle cues and changes in situations, how to just hold your breath and stop fighting, that in the end with a little faith, things usually turn out better than you imagine.”

The last question I really made me think. “Why are you a part of the Outdoor Industry?”

Keen's OR Winter Market boothMy first thought was that I wasn’t, I was just a student with aspirations, but over the past few days I had been accepted and included and my ideas were listened to just as much as anyone else. I realized to the professionals I respected I was a part of the outdoor industry. I answered, “The Outdoor Industry inspires me. I have met so many amazing, passionate people this week. People who are committed to preserving the outdoors so that everyone can have the experiences and the inspiration we have, as REI says, A life outdoors is a life well lived. And I see that manifested in companies like Patagonia, Keen, MEC, Hydroflask, prAna, REI, and in the people that make up this industry. But as Terry Tempest Williams said in her keynote this morning, we aren’t doing enough. I believe the outdoor industry needs to stand up for what it believes in, be more vocal, and demand change. I hope to get a job in the outdoor industry because the level of collaboration and passion is unparalleled. This industry is a vital piece in advancing the environmental movement both with consumers and policy makers and I want to be a part of that movement.”

 

Thank you to Todd Walton, Katie Boue, and Nikki Hodgson from the OIA. All photo credit to the Outdoor Industry Association.

Written by Natalie Colvin

Natalie is a 2016 MBA from the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. The experience of living abroad in Costa Rica, instilled in Natalie a passion for improving the world. After completing her MBA, she hopes to bring this passion to a career in corporate environmental and advocacy campaigns. Natalie received a dual undergraduate degree in development anthropology and Latin American studies from the University of Arizona honors college where she was also on the equestrian team.

Growing a Sustainable Diet

Ori Shavit Israeli VegansThe first quarter of the Oregon MBA offers unique opportunities to use the lens of business for cultural discovery. On the morning of November 18th, I had the privilege of Skyping with Ori Shavit, an Israeli food critic and cook turned vegan activist. During the conversation, we spoke at length about sustainable diets, about the passion and drama of the restaurant industry, and about using influence to be a catalyst for change.

In sustainability circles, the impact of the food and agricultural industry is a touchy subject. While the petroleum industry is an easy villain to target, many overlook the livestock industry’s contribution to emissions and ocean acidification. By choosing not to eat animal products, one can reduce their carbon footprint double as much over, say, choosing not to drive a vehicle. The simple reality is that people balk at the idea of switching to a meatless diet, with the idea that their food would just not taste as good.

Ori Shavit also regarded the vegan diet with wariness. Ori was an editor and writer for Al Hasulchan, the leading gastronomic publication of Israel. As a food critic, not only her lifestyle but her livelihood depended on the richness of food and on the vibrancy of the restaurant experience. This job contained a great deal of responsibility. Not only would her writings make or break a restaurant’s customer traffic, they also had a long term effect on the direction of the Israeli palate and a culture’s palate is a key indicator of their level of physical health.

In the pages of VegansOnTop.com and as a TEDx speaker, Ori is quick to point out that an animal-based diet has implications on a culture’s spiritual health as well. Israel is actually a net exporter of dairy products, as well as citrus and tomatoes. Many consumers are ignorant of the cruelty involved in the process of growing meat, eggs, and dairy products. For a culture like Israel’s, which is sensitive to mass-cruelty by their very history, the Israeli Ori Shavit TedXvegan movement maintains that it is unacceptable to be complicit in such violence. The idea is gaining traction: Israel now ranks as the country with the most people identifying as vegan per capita, and Tel Aviv has a vibrant vegan restaurant culture.

Ori Shavit has been a crucial part of this process. As a self-proclaimed “hedonist” and food lover, she has had to work hard to ensure that her passion for the culinary arts would not be sacrificed by her switch to veganism. For instance, she was instrumental in the vegan “pop-up” restaurant scene, where chefs changed the menu of their upscale establishment for one night and sold a prix-fixe menu to huge crowds. The draw for these events proved to mid-level restauranteurs that the demand was there, and they adjusted their menus accordingly. Now, there are even vegan restaurants opening in the back country (the “Kibbutz”). Every step of the way, Ori has used her influence in the industry to both grow demand and maintain it. This includes a creating and preparing the menu for the Israeli Parliament’s very first vegan lunch, a highlight of her career.

I believe that the restaurant industry is a mirror of its values, especially in terms of what it does and doesn’t view as “food.” In Israel, the legitimacy of vegan cuisine has translated to a shift in supply in the food industry at large. Dairy producers are now offering more dairy-free milks and cheeses, and 30% of Israelis have reportedly loweredIsraeli Vegan Food their consumption of animal products. All of this points to the power of the individual, which Ori Shavit is a firm believer in. That is to say, she is a firm believer in the purchasing power of many like-minded individuals, and her movement is a movement of the people. In a world of seven billion consumers, where many feel powerless in the face of environmental and social degradation, Ori has a message of hope: eat, eat consciously, and eat well!

 

Ori Shavit will be a visiting speaker at the University of Oregon in late March or early April.

Written by Joey Jaraczewski

Jaraczewski joins the Oregon MBA with a passion for changing the food industry. He grew up in rural Arizona and has spent the past four years exploring the world of food from multiple angles. He’s worked as a server and bartender in Flagstaff and traveled across the country visiting farms, feedlots, food distribution warehouses, and retailers. As an Oregon MBA on the sustainability track, Jaraczewski plans to build on that experience to explore ways to build a more sustainable food system for generations to come. Jaraczewski will graduate as an Oregon MBA with the class of 2017.

How the Net Impact “Game On” Conference was a Game Changer

 

Chelsea Clinton at NI15For first year MBA students interested in sustainable business practices, the Net Impact Conference is a must have experience. The Net Impact Conference gives a well-rounded view of how sustainable business practices function in the real world and how a shift towards sustainability can alleviate many economic and social plights the world currently REI Opt Outsidefaces. In addition to the outstanding networking and career search opportunities, the Chelsea Clinton, Jerry Stritzke (REI), Cliff Burrows (Starbucks), and Daniel Lubetsky (KIND Snacks).

 

A favorite session among the Oregon MBAs was “Conservation Finance: Investing in Nature at Scale,” led by Joe Whitworth and Oregon Alum David Chen. David Chen is the CEO of Equilibrium Capital, a firm, “that David Chenbuilds sustainability-driven real assets investment strategies, funds, and products that generate institutional-quality returns and scale to investors”. The session was a mixture of lecture and group workshop that allowed us to learn from Whitworth and Chen, tackle problems they presented, and then receive feedback to the solutions our teams brainstormed. Most exciting for me, was the ability for Whitworth and Chen to fuse monetary value and conservation into a package which both provides return for investors and measurable ecosystem services.

 

One of the most compelling sessions that I attended was put on by CollaborateUp, a consulting firm that aims to bring people and companies together to solve big problems. In the workshop, “Nourshing 9 Billion Challenge: Planting the STEM in Food,” groups of 5 were teamed with an expert from Google, Monsanto, or Starbucks and pitted against each other to find solutions for integrating science, technology, engineering, and math education (STEM) into resolutions for feeding the planet. My team was composed of industry professionals, MBA students from all over the United States, and Mary Wagner, a Senior Vice President at Starbucks. This workshop reminded me of Sports Matters Panel at NI15the work we do at the Oregon MBA and reinforced my satisfaction with my choice and my cohort. Much like the Oregon MBA, my team had educational and cultural diversity that, paired with the expertise of Mary, aided in a strong presentation of our final solution.

 

Net Impact Conference 2015 SeattleThe Net Impact Conference was my first opportunity to see first-hand how sustainability initiatives and business come together. As a biologist with virtually no prior business education or experience, it is reassuring to see that social and environmental problems are becoming a top priority for many companies. These shifts in priorities are exciting and meaningful. The work being done by many innovative thinkers and practitioners are successfully creating shared value solutions that are more profitable than their archaic counterparts. The conference gave new insights into the types of careers available for sustainable business MBA’s and instilled in me a whole new perspective in creatively solving some of the world’s most pressing social and environmental matters.

Written by Eric Parsons

Parsons is a biologist with hospital-lab and field-research experience looking to integrate sustainability into mainstream corporations. Most recently, he served as a field technician for the Belize Raptor Research Institute and performed a study on migrating neotropical raptors. In that role, he identified migrating raptors, produced reports analyzing daily activities and assisted with public outreach. Through the Oregon MBA, Parsons plans to develop the skills necessary to integrate conservation biology with corporate sustainability programs to create value for the business and protect the environment. After graduation, he plans to create sustainability initiatives for companies with interests in neotropical regions or healthcare.