Center for Sustainable Business Practices

Why Sports are Important to Sustainability

Sports and sustainability are two areas that most people do not see going hand in hand. While organizations like the Green Sports Alliance and the Council for Responsible Sport (CRS) are working to fix that viewpoint, the everyday consumer may have more difficulty connecting the two. If you ask the right people, they may see how sustainable practices can have a large positive impact on sporting events in terms of waste reduction or energy efficiency. But would they mention that sports can also have an impact on the sustainability movement?

This summer I was able to work with the City of Eugene on a grant they received from the Urban Sustainability Directors Network (USDN) to help create a framework for responsible events. My specific focus was creating an engagement model for how best to utilize universities in the responsible event space. I was really excited to learn more about the events area, and was unpleasantly surprised when I found out that the majority of events that would be using this framework would be sporting events.

Let me clarify, I am not a sports fan. I say, “Go Ducks!” but I have never been to a game, and I’m definitely not the person you should ask if you want to know the outcome of last weekend’s game. I watch the Super Bowl, but only for the advertisements. So, when I found out that a significant portion of my research would be surrounding sporting events, I was less than enthusiastic. I could see how sustainability could benefit sports. It was clear that helping to implement those practices was important, but I was much more eager to learn about how sustainability had been executed at music festivals than baseball games.

I could not have been more surprised by what I learned from my conversations with multiple people in the green sports area. Many professional leagues are moving towards more sustainability-focused goals. The Final Four has been certified a couple of times by the CRS, and Major League Baseball has made efforts to have a Green Team at the All-Star Game. New ways of connecting sustainability and sports are coming up every year, and learning about how these events have been made more sustainable is exciting. While it was quite simple to see how sustainable goals were improving sports, my biggest takeaway was how important sports are to the sustainability movement.

58% of Americans identify as sports fans[1]. Sports as a platform for communication is invaluable. What sports teams support, and the messages they promote, will be heard by thousands. For the people pushing sustainability forward, the ability to use this platform created by sports allows them to reach people who might not normally be exposed to sustainable ideas. If people, especially children who grow up watching their favorite teams, see these stadiums or leagues “going green” they may be inspired to do the same.

My viewpoint on sports has completely changed since the beginning of the summer. While I still don’t identify as a sports fan, I finally see the value of sports as a platform. Last weekend I was able to incorporate these lessons into helping put on the Green Football Game at Autzen Stadium, where we met our goal of receiving 500+ pledges to be more sustainable. I’m looking forward to utilizing sports in my future sustainability experiences.

                                                     

[1] http://news.gallup.com/poll/183689/industry-grows-percentage-sports-fans-steady.aspx

 

Written by Llyswen Berna

Llyswen is a 2018 MBA from the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. She is a motivated individual with extensive leadership experience and a passion for sustainability. Most recently, she worked on the quality assurance team at Epic, a top healthcare software company. Before that, she was an AmeriCorps volunteer, where she advised low-income students about getting into and through college. At Oregon, Llyswen plans to build on her skills in project management and sustainable business practices. After graduation, she’s interested in consulting with companies and nonprofits to develop sustainable business strategies.

Wandering with Purpose at the 2017 Net Impact Conference

It’s the night before the first day of the Net Impact conference and I’m furiously looking through their website, writing down all talks I want to attend and people I want to network with.  The list was long – if I wanted to get to everything, there would have to be 5 extraverted versions of myself. I went to sleep feeling anxiously prepared.

Standing in line to register the next day, I saw a looming sign featuring the theme of this year’s conference – “Path to Purpose.” It struck me that I didn’t know my purpose for attending. Yes, I knew I wanted to network and learn new things, but that’s not purpose. Those are actions to satisfy my purpose. Suddenly, I felt like a lost child in a giant shopping mall. Where is my purpose?! Where’s an adult that can tell me where my purpose is?!

This isn’t a new feeling for me. Most of the time, I feel like a cat constantly changing direction to look at the new shiny thing. Professors, career counselors, and parents ask me, “what do you love to do?” In the words of one of the keynote speakers at Net Impact, Cheryl Dorsey President of Echoing Green, “what makes your heart sing?” I mean, a lot of things. I love connecting and helping people on a deep level. I love coming up with new and creative ways to communicate an old message. I love traveling and food. I love being outdoors. I love movies and culture and art and their impact on society. DO I HAVE TO PICK ONE?

At the risk of going crazy trying to define a purpose that would further my career and define my life’s work, I decided to keep it simple – be curious, learn something new. I left the extensive list of people and sessions in my bag and made game time decisions. It felt like I was moving with a tide – going to sessions and exploring which conversations moved me, then finding sessions that dig deeper into that topic. For example, Paul Hawken, the author of Project Drawdown, walked us through the top solutions to reverse climate change. I was moved to tears to hear that women’s issues had some of the biggest impact – Solution #6 was educating girls and solution #7 was family planning. Giving the control back to women gave them the power to choose their own path, which usually led to smaller families and higher education. This led me to the gender equality panel, one I didn’t consider before hearing those statistics. It turned out to be my favorite session. I learned about the implications of cognitive diversity from Mary Harvey, a Principle at Ripple Effect Consulting and former US women’s national soccer team goal keeper. I found out from a fellow student that computer science started as a female-dominated field before the personal computer revolution made it a “masculine” endeavor. Later, one of the sessions I wanted to go to was closed, so I ended up at “Don’t leave your values at the door.” Cause marketing is another passion of mine and it just so happens that the woman who essentially invented it, Carol Cone, was leading the panel.

I satisfied my “conference” purpose – I was curious and learned new things. Did that lead me to my life’s purpose? Not exactly, but it did reignite my passion for impacting food systems. And it did make me want to explore and understand gender equality and its impact on the workplace and environment. Most of the successful professionals I heard from had winding paths to their current positions because they were curious individuals with multiple passions. And with each pivot, their purpose became clearer. So, for all my fellow wanderers out there: Having a wide range of interests is a good thing. Don’t be afraid to follow your passions through unconventional career paths. Go to that art opening. Volunteer at that organic farm. Reach out to that person with your dream job – the one you never thought would want to talk to you. With each new opportunity, you’ll discover the common thread that spells out your purpose.

Written by Alison O'Shaughnessy

Ali is a 2018 MBA from the Center of Sustainable Business Practices. She spent most of her career working in digital marketing for non-profit clients in New York City. After graduating, she plans on combining her expertise in marketing with her passion for socially and environmentally responsible business practices by working for a company that shares her altruistic values.

Building Connections: My Weekend at the Clinton Global Initiative U Conference

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On October 13-15, I attend the Clinton Global Initiative U Conference in Boston. The conference was hosted by Bill Clinton and Chelsea Clinton, and I was beyond honored to be selected out of thousands of applicants to represent the University of Oregon at this incredible event. The speaker list was stacked with impact-makers from across the world including people like the 19th Secretary of State Madeline Albright; Alan Khazi, founder of City Year and national service champion; Daryl Davis, who did amazing feats to strengthen race relations; Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy III; David Miliband, current CEO of International Rescue Committee and former Foreign Secretary in the UK; Olympic medalist, Ibtihaj Muhammad; and 19th Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy.

I heard inspiring talks on a variety of global issues, but to me, one key theme emerged: connection. It is the conversations between people that drive empathy and understanding, it is the partnerships between organizations that create massive change, and it is the networks each person at the conference had that allowed them to get where they are today. We are a global community that needs to work together to reach a common purpose, peace, and quality of life for every person. As President Clinton said, it is not division and subtraction but addition and multiplication that will help us create a better future.

I was particularly inspired by panelist Daryl Davis, an African-American man who decided to write a book on the Ku Klux Klan at the height of the civil rights movement. Like any good author, Davis needed to interview the subjects of his book, and he put himself in great danger to do so. But the conversations he had with KKK leaders also broke down walls. Through these conversations, Davis befriended 1000 Klan members who subsequently quit the organization. His words will stick with me forever, “It is when the conversation ceases that the ground becomes fertile for violence.”

Seeing the theme of connection played out so strongly was especially empowering for me, because it’s something I’m focusing on here at the Oregon MBA. The application to attend Clinton Global Initiative U required a commitment to action. For me, that commitment is a program I developed called the Sustainability Hyperinnovation Collaborative (SHIC). It’s an event series that brings together multiple stakeholders to co-create sustainable solutions to the problems we see today. The inaugural event for SHIC will take place April 20-21 and will focus on creating integrated transportation platforms that will help cities and businesses create cohesive public and shared transportation systems. Government officials, transportation executives, university researchers, and passionate graduate students will be divided into teams and lead through rapid innovation processes to create a product in just two days.

It has been a challenge to develop an event like this, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of faculty members at UO who gave me the tools and connections to help this idea grow. With the help of my network, I hope to grow SHIC into a network of universities hosting annual events that support sustainable business through collaboration. Together, we can create bigger, faster, and stronger impacts; something that CGI U is working to accomplish as well.

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My take away from CGI U is this: connect with others. Impactful projects are only successfully with the help of a network and a team. Political and social divides can only be broken through mutual understanding, one conversation at a time. We can all do something to impact the world: communicate, listen, understand, grow, connect.

Written by Leah Goodman

Leah is a 2018 MBA student focusing on Sustainable Business Practices and Strategy. She is a Clinton Global Initiative U '17 class member and a Net Impact Climate Fellow. Currently, Leah is developing an innovation lab, the Sustainable Hyperinnovation Collaborative, and hopes to grow this business after graduation.

Engaged and Enlightened: MBA Experiential Learning in China and Singapore

The sights, sounds, colors, and smells form a tapestry: The hawker stalls. The culture. The ornately-manicured trees and chaotic-yet-somehow-organized subway traffic. The beauty of the Chinese and Singaporean people.

But let’s start from the beginning…
It was with eagerness and a measure of trepidation that we boarded our 14-hour flight from San Francisco to Shanghai. We’d heard the descriptions: Shanghai is like New York and Las Vegas smashed together, a city of 23 million filled with towering skyscrapers and neon lights, much of which was rice paddies 10 years ago. The hype was real: The scale is on another level. The drive from the airport was populated with high-rise apartment buildings, and the city itself was filled with the promised sparkling, whimsical and gravity-defying skyscrapers.

Our tour began at Spraying Systems Co., a world leader in automated industrial spraying technology, where fellow Oregon MBA’ers Mason Atkin, Aaron Bush, Leah Goodman, and Seth Lenaerts spend the summer as interns driving innovation and sustainable business practices. The visit highlighted some differences between US and Chinese practices, including ideas of credit and performance guarantees, as the company prepares for the changing business demands of the 21st century.

Our next stop was Silicon Valley Bank, where the Chinese branch of this bank has made inroads in the country through use of patience and partnerships. Our host for this visit was Head of Corporate Banking, and U of O alumnus, Tim Hardin. As the Chinese banking system slowly opens to Westerners, SVB has positioned itself to take advantage of this exploding market.

At China Steel, an online steel trading startup and client of SVB, we were exposed to the pace and adaptability of the Chinese startup culture. Within a few short years, the startup has grown from an idea into a multi-million-dollar company, completely changing their business model almost yearly as they adapt to this new arena. Chinaccelerator, a Shanghai-based startup accelerator, was another impressive example of the pace of the Chinese startup market. Here businesses are created, funded, and launched within a matter of months.

The next leg of our adventure took us to Beijing, the cultural center and seat of Chinese power for thousands of years. Our first visit was to AECOM, an international engineering and consulting firm that has designed and built several large-scale projects for the Chinese government. AECOM is truly synthesizing the old and the new, with aesthetics that combine traditional techniques and styles with modern materials. The company is also innovating creative solutions to public transport and urban congestion, helping China steer away from polluting combustion-engine vehicles that clog the streets towards efficient and effective public transportation.

Next was a presentation at the Silk Road Fund. This collaboration between government and private entities is funding projects that advance China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative, which strives to reestablish and reinvigorate trade routes between China and Europe, Africa, and Asia Minor. By investing in infrastructure, energy, and transportation projects, China is reopening the historic “Silk Road” trading routes and transitioning its economy from a manufacturing power to a service, innovation, and knowledge economy.

That wrapped up our time in China, and it was truly bittersweet to leave behind our new friends and favorite foods. It’s one thing to hear the hyperbole about China: Rising superpower, a billion-and-a-half people, a culture and political system so different from ours. But it’s altogether different to see it firsthand, and I think it’s safe to say I was changed by the experience.

Next it was on to Singapore, the tropical nation-state and financial powerhouse known as the “garden city.” After meeting with some local politicians and businesspeople who delved into Singapore’s political and socioeconomic realities (Western ties, and close proximity to a rising China), we toured Sports Singapore and Singapore Airlines. Sports Singapore is a terrific example of the push to invest in its people. Through a focus on active play, healthy competition and beneficial lifestyles, the government is preparing its people for the dynamic, competitive world that lies ahead. At Singapore Airlines, we were briefed on their success from small airline to regional player with multiple subsidiaries, as well as getting an up-close look into their training program.

Last on the agenda was a special visit to the Singaporean Parliament building, where we learned of the island’s brief but storied history from British colony to independent nation-state. Such visits provide valuable insight into our own, mostly unquestioned, mores and beliefs.

Overall, my takeaways from Engaging Asia 2017 are that I grew personally and professionally in ways that I can’t quite quantify, but are tangible and real. Many of our world’s conflicts come from misunderstanding or lack of knowledge, and we reduced that in a way that could have ripple effects. Professionally, I think my basket of potential career destinations and job titles got bigger, and I also think there’s a spark to build stronger international connections and networks.

Engaging Asia changes and bolsters perspectives in an irreversible way, a way that hyperbole simply cannot. As we boarded the return flight to San Francisco, we left a piece of ourselves behind, but took a piece of China and Singapore with us. Until next time!

Written by bfordham

Fordham is a writer and journalist who believes in addressing the future with clarity and vision. He has most recently written for the Mad River Union, an award-winning Northern California newspaper, where he helped bring subjects like biogas production and bond procurement to life. Through the Oregon MBA’s Center for Sustainable Business Practices, Fordham plans to build out his overall skill-sets, taking advantage of rigorous coursework and experiential learning opportunities to gain a strong framework of business fundamentals. After graduation he plans to work toward renewable energy solutions for a changing world. Fordham will graduate in Spring '18.

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.

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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!

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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.