Net Impact

Biomimicry at Net Impact- Applying Nature to Business

It might be time for a new set of bracelets and bumper stickers, with an updated slogan of “WWND?” … What would nature do?

The final group of breakout sessions at Net Impact offered what was for me the highlight of the entire conference. To be fair, I majored in biology in undergrad, and am an unabashed nature nerd, but still– I think the concept of Biomimicry, and its applications to business, should be at least a little bit exciting for anyone who traveled to Baltimore for NI.

Biomimicry is pretty much what it sounds like– examining how things work in nature and trying to emulate them to create solutions to human problems and the marketplace. The concepts of using free energy, implementing closed-loop systems, and optimizing rather than maximizing can all be applied to a wide variety of business models, and really help to reduce human impact and create more sustainable operating environments. The session also highlighted some relevant classwork, be it a project from Syracuse-based D-Build, who we met in Mike Russo‘s Sustainable Business class last winter, or the discussion of material flows and Kalundborg that we’ve had in Jennifer Howard-Grenville‘s Industrial Ecology class this year.

I also loved the amusing nature-based examples of business strategies. Koalas as niche competitors focusing on one core competency, or tickbirds and rhinos as an example of outsourcing. It was great to see examples of how people had observed patterns in nature and applied them to business needs, relying on adaptability, evolution, resilience, and conservation to get the job done.

Although it only lasted 75 minutes, it was truly a revelatory experience that changed my perspective on the way we should attack our current challenges. And the final call to action really hit home, especially since we study in Oregon.

“Get out there, and think like a tree!”

Andrew White, Sustainable Business Practices, Class of 2013

 

This post is part of a series from the UO Net Impact student group that traveled to Baltimore for the 2012 Net Impact Conference. The UO Net Impact Blog can be found at http://www.uonetimpact.org/

Written by Andrew White

Andrew is an MBA Candidate in the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. A native of Massachusetts, he came to UO to refine his business skills and build his expertise in the sustainability arena. His primary interest is in helping organizations implement environmentally and socially sustainable strategies for long-term success, and he is a regular participant on many of the MBA intramural sports teams.

UO Net Impact makes mixing it up with Green Lane Businesses a tradition

What better way to wrap up week 3 of Fall term than to meet and greet with green businesses in the community? This was the first mixer of the year for the UO Net Impact chapter and also one of the biggest events that is put on campus by an OMBA student organization in the Fall term. Over 60 members of the Green Lane, Net Impact, and Lundquist College of Business were there to enjoy some good food, great company, and refreshments from our sponsors at Ninkasi. It was great to get the chance to connect with the incoming first year class of OMBAs, LCB Staff, of course find out about the real upside to running a sustainable business.

In the business expo, we had friends from Ninkasi Brewing, offering a glimpse of what they do to minimize water use, utilize PV electricity in their facility, and find alternative uses for post production waste. Mountain Rose Herb was also inspirational, explaining what responsible sourcing means to them and how communicating that is differentiating them in their industry and positively impacts their bottom line. The re-use and re-purpose organizations Bring Recycling and NextStep Recycling also joined us, offered a look at where our electronics and household purchases end up after their use, and presented alternative methods of treatment and disposal.

The night was a great success, and I am glad that I had the chance to better acquaint myself with the new Net Impact members, and build rapport with numerous sustainable business professionals. Next on our schedule is the Net Impact Conference in Baltimore, and I can’t wait to report back on the great experiences and conversations that take place while we are there!

Tzvetan Gatchev, UO Net Impact President, Center for Sustainable Business Practices, Class of 2013

Written by Andrew White

Andrew is an MBA Candidate in the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. A native of Massachusetts, he came to UO to refine his business skills and build his expertise in the sustainability arena. His primary interest is in helping organizations implement environmentally and socially sustainable strategies for long-term success, and he is a regular participant on many of the MBA intramural sports teams.

Earth Day Celebrated at Lillis

Last week the students of the Lundquist College of Business were treated to some great business community infiltration: Net Impact graduate and undergrad chapters worked together to organize a Green Business Networking hour, a local Green Business Expo, and a keynote address from the First Lady of Oregon, Cylvia Hayes, about job creation in Oregon and it’s deep ties to renewable energy and other sustainable industries. The Expo highlighted a number of local companies including Grape SolarGood Company, a sustainability consulting firm, Arcimoto, a three-wheeled electric vehicle start-up, and Two Degrees, an energy bar company for social benefit.

Café Yumm, a local Eugene start-up turned Oregon restaurateur success story, also came to exhibit at our Green Business Expo.  I caught up with Maritza, the Café Yumm representative, who explained that Café Yumm’s commitment to sustainable business practices and community engagement were key to their remarkable growth during 2008 and 2009, when most other restaurants were closing their doors.

Check out this video where Maritza walks me through just a few of the green initiatives that Café Yumm champions.

Earth Day was a great opportunity to show the campus community the business case for green, and perhaps plant seeds of awareness about the part they could play for a more sustainable future.

 

–Mikaela Hicks

Written by UO Business

The UO Lundquist College of Business empowers an engaged community of students, faculty, staff, and stakeholders who create, apply, and disseminate knowledge that contributes significantly to their professions, communities, and society. The college delivers a dynamic learning environment where world-class professors engage and get to know students, where students work on real projects for real companies, and where alumni go on to high-powered jobs worldwide.

Connecting Consumers with Action… And Your Brand

This is post is part of a series of entries from Oregon MBA students who attended the 2011 Net Impact Conference in Portland.

Panel Mem­bers:

Kristin Ban­nis­ter, Direc­tor of Global Brand Mar­ket­ing, Levi Strauss & Co.

Tom Kel­ley, Global Brand Direc­tor of Sus­tain­able Busi­ness & Inno­va­tion, Nike

Ian Yolles, Chief Sus­tain­abil­ity Offi­cer, Recyclebank

Mod­er­a­tor:

Suzanne Shel­ton, Pres­i­dent and CEO, Shel­ton Group

While the Net Impact Con­fer­ence is rife with pan­els con­sist­ing of the lead­ing minds on the topic of cor­po­rate social respon­si­bil­ity, I was look­ing for some­thing a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent from my Net Impact expe­ri­ence. As a grad­u­ate stu­dent with a keen belief in cor­po­rate social respon­si­bil­ity and look­ing to build as career as a market­ing and brand strat­egy pro­fes­sional in and around the busi­ness of sport, I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to talk to brand direc­tors in charge of inte­grat­ing the sus­tain­abil­ity agenda into their brand essence. Hav­ing plenty of prior expe­ri­ence learn­ing, work­ing, and think­ing on brand strat­egy, I came into this ses­sion hop­ing that the opin­ion I have devel­oped over the past year on the sub­ject aligned with the pan­elists’ advice. Specif­i­cally, I hoped the pan­elists would touch on the chal­lenges estab­lished brands, which have no back­ground asso­ci­at­ing with social respon­si­bil­ity, face when try­ing to become syn­ony­mous with social responsibil­ity in the minds of the consumer.

As if built for my con­sump­tion, the pan­elist spent the major­ity of their time dis­cussing pre­cisely this challenge. While Nike & Levi Strauss are brand lead­ers, hav­ing long ago embraced social respon­si­bil­ity, the pan­elists were well equipped to dis­cuss the topic since each had lived through the process. Tom gave, in my opin­ion, the most mean­ing­ful brand strat­egy insight – that brands should do things because they believe in it, that a brand needs to BE what they SAY they are, and finally that con­sis­tency and resiliency are para­mount to build­ing a suc­cess­ful brand. Kristin had some fan­tas­tic insight on the topic of com­mu­ni­cat­ing to con­sumers that a prod­uct was built using sus­tain­able processes – that no one has been able to suc­cess­fully sell prod­ucts for a higher price sim­ply based on the sus­tain­able aspect of the prod­uct, and that sus­tain­abil­ity prod­ucts must adhere to the same rules as other prod­ucts. Fur­ther­more, Kristin chal­lenged that sta­tus quo by sug­gest­ing that pro­fes­sion­als need to look for ways to use sus­tain­able prac­tices to add very real, intrin­sic value to the product to the ben­e­fit of the consumer.

Lastly, fol­low­ing the panel dis­cus­sion the pan­elists made them­selves avail­able to the pub­lic. Given the time restraint on the panel, many in atten­dance had a ques­tion that was not addressed and used this oppor­tu­nity to approach the pan­elists to dis­cuss their ques­tion. I took advan­tage of this time to get in front of Tom and discuss my views on brand man­age­ment as related to social respon­si­bil­ity. Although quick, I felt that the time net­work­ing with the pan­elist after a panel is eas­ily as valu­able as the time spent lis­ten­ing to the panel discus­sion. Thank­fully the pan­elists real­ize this as well and were more than will­ing to talk with us. All things con­sid­ered, this panel was fan­tas­tic expe­ri­ence for me. It was not only career-​​informing but it was also per­son­ally career-​​affirming.

– Patrick Haas, MBA ’12, Warsaw Sports Marketing Center

Written by UO Business

The UO Lundquist College of Business empowers an engaged community of students, faculty, staff, and stakeholders who create, apply, and disseminate knowledge that contributes significantly to their professions, communities, and society. The college delivers a dynamic learning environment where world-class professors engage and get to know students, where students work on real projects for real companies, and where alumni go on to high-powered jobs worldwide.

David Takes on Goliath: How Young Companies Challenge Established Brands

This is the first in a series of entries from Oregon MBA students who attended the 2011 Net Impact Conference in Portland.

I was for­tu­nate enough to get to this panel just in time to grab one of the few seats left in the already packed room. As some­one who sub­scribes to the belief that audi­ence turnout can be an accu­rate indi­ca­tor for qual­ity of dis­cus­sion, I imme­di­ately knew I picked a great panel for the after­noon ses­sion. Seated at the front of the room were green busi­ness visionaries:

• Seth Gold­man, Co-​​Founder and TeaEO of Hon­est Tea,

• Sheryl O’Laughlin, for­mer CEO of Clif Bar and cur­rent Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of the Cen­ter for Entre­pre­neur­ial Stud­ies at Stan­ford University,

• and Jason Graham-​​Nye, Co-​​Founder and CEO of gDiapers.

The mod­er­a­tor opened our dis­cus­sion with a fas­ci­nat­ing piece of information—aside from each pan­elist being a CEO lead­ing the charge for a more sus­tain­able world, another trait all three CEOs share is that they are all marathon run­ners. The impor­tance of this fact the mod­er­a­tor said, and each of the CEOs agreed, comes in mak­ing an anal­ogy to run­ning a start-​​up busi­ness, or being an entrepreneur—to do either of these things, you must under­stand the long-​​term nature of the undertaking—it is a marathon, not a sprint; this would prove to be a poignant fact laced through­out our discussion.

After intro­duc­tions, the rest of the dis­cus­sion was con­cen­trated around each CEO telling the story of their per­sonal lives and their busi­ness, two things that were very inter­twined. A uni­ver­sal theme in the estab­lish­ment of each of their ‘David’ busi­nesses was that they all desired a bet­ter, health­ier, more sus­tain­able prod­uct that a ‘Goliath’ con­glom­er­ate was just not offer­ing. For Hon­est Tea it was a great tast­ing nat­ural bev­er­age that was not loaded with sugar; for Clif Bar it was a food source of energy that was nat­ural and did not taste like card­board; for gDi­a­pers it was a dia­per not made of oil-​​based plas­tics that would sit in a land­fill for over 500 years before biode­grad­ing. The com­mon­al­ity here was that each busi­ness leader had a vision for a bet­ter prod­uct that could in turn help cre­ate a bet­ter world and with that belief, they could take on any­one, includ­ing the seem­ingly invin­ci­ble global brands.

– Sarah Spring, JD/MBA

Written by UO Business

The UO Lundquist College of Business empowers an engaged community of students, faculty, staff, and stakeholders who create, apply, and disseminate knowledge that contributes significantly to their professions, communities, and society. The college delivers a dynamic learning environment where world-class professors engage and get to know students, where students work on real projects for real companies, and where alumni go on to high-powered jobs worldwide.

Net Impact Conference 2011 in PDX

Net Impact is a worldwide organization of students and professionals interested in using business to create social and environmental good. Over 50 Oregon MBA students attended the 2011 Net Impact Conference in Portland this past weekend. Over 2,500 students from over 120 schools joined us. There were nearly 400 speakers from a variety of professional backgrounds sharing their experiences working to make a difference. To be surrounded by so many change makers was humbling and inspiring.

The conference covered a wide variety of topics, including Energy & Clean Tech, Finance & Investing, International Development, Social Innovation, and Professional Development. Each of us planned our conference based on our areas of interest and professional goals. Some of the panels that I attended included Social Entrepreneurship & The Fortune 500, Accelerating Social Innovation through Design, and Social Media for Maximum Corporate Impact. In addition to the insight and inspiration, the panels offered a great opportunity to network with professionals.

All in all, it was a great conference and a lot of fun. Portland was a great backdrop for the conference and the Oregon MBA was well represented. The UO Net Impact chapter has a lot of momentum behind it. Our chapter has grown from 8 to over 80 people in the last two years. This year, Net Impact Central recognized us as a Gold status chapter. Two of our very own were presented with Net Impact’s 2011 Force For Change Awards at the conference. Congratulations go out to Katie Brennan and chapter president Cassidy Williams!

To find out more about the UO Net Impact Chapter, check us out on Facebook or Twitter.

– Tashi Dondup ’12

Written by UO Business

The UO Lundquist College of Business empowers an engaged community of students, faculty, staff, and stakeholders who create, apply, and disseminate knowledge that contributes significantly to their professions, communities, and society. The college delivers a dynamic learning environment where world-class professors engage and get to know students, where students work on real projects for real companies, and where alumni go on to high-powered jobs worldwide.

Clean Tech Open, Day 1 – MBA education validated

I suspect that what is on the mind of pending U of O MBA students, current, and recent graduated is if the education received is relevant and valid.  Well I can say, after the first day of the Cleantech Open Academy, the answer to that question is a resounding YES!

Paul Clark, UO MBA, at Clean Tech Open, July 2011After getting over the awkward start of once again trying to define sustainability within a room of entrepreneurs dedicated to developing sustainable and green products and services, we got off to a shocking start with the announcement that business plans are obsolete!  This of course is not a shock to many of us, who have traveled down the road to entrepreneurship, be it in the Venture Start-up program within the University, or out there on our own.  But for many in the room such a statement seems like heresy.   The dogma out there, when looking to raise money, is that you need a business plan, and I suspect that for many of the competitors in the Cleantech Open, they had the impression that the whole purpose  of this event is to write a winning business plan.

That is not the case for this competition.   What they want from all of us is not a plan, but a solid business.  In the past this competition had focused a great amount of energy in creating a solid business plan, but now they say investors are even not interested in reading them.  Over the next several weeks, with the help of our assigned mentor, we are going to walk through a process that creates a compelling and engaging executive summary, and 10 slide PowerPoint presentation, and 10 worksheets.  This body of work will be what we are judged on later in the Fall.

So with that cat out of the bag, the real work of this Academy got underway.  Randy Komisar, author of the Monk and the Riddle, and Getting to Plan B, launched us into a conversation about the importance of failure as a learning tool, and pointing out that our first customer in not going to be our planned customer (thus the irrelevance of the business plan), thus the need for a plan B.  Not that a plan B is once again something that your “plan” for thus write into your business plan, but have a built in process to test all the assumptions you are making when creating your business model.  And let’s not kid ourselves, new venture planning is all about making assumptions; sometimes stacking assumptions upon assumptions, and this is what makes the business plan irrelevant.

With these plan B strategies in mind, we then headed down the road of customer selection.  The main theme here – “get out of the building.”  It is not unusual for a start-up venture to be founded upon a brilliant idea, dredged deep from the mind of the inventor.  However an idea is rarely robust enough to become a viable business.  There has to be a customer that is hungry for the idea, sees the value of the idea, AND has the ability to pay for the solution.  The best way to evaluate the market validity of your business idea is to show it to potential customers, but to make this a more efficient process, have a clear understanding of the value your idea has to your potential customer.

With face-to-face time with real customers they will tell you if your assumptions about value are real, and if they are not, hopefully they can tell you what they value, and your plan B mentality can kick in.   A formal business plan is too static to capture this important process, thus the need to build in flexibility and a focus on developing a process to form your business model.

So with all this being said, at the end of the day, we still don’t have an exact indication of the contents of those 10 pending worksheets, but if I was to give my best guess, I have a feeling that they will be looking for detailed information about how we know our customer and how we are confident that our product offering is a very profitable match to this customer’s need.  This will be the contents of our Cleantech  “business plan,” and competition aside, this will be a very powerful go-forward strategy.

So all said and done, a business plan will still be created, but we are going to approach its creation in a completely different way.  At the end of the day, the mantra was this: Think Big, Start Small, and Move Fast.  Big ideas brought us here.  Now we have to go out there and find that first viable customer, and waste no time adapting  and learning from them.  This same mantra applies to the U of O MBA studies.  We are well prepared to make it happen, even in a green, clean way!

– Paul Clark, MBA ‘11

You can follow Doug, Paul, and Innovative Invironments team in their Cleantech Open experience on Twitter @douglassander.

Editor’s Note: This is the second in the series of blog posts that will follow two Oregon MBA graduates from the Center for Sustainable Business Practices as they participate in the semi-final round of the Cleantech Open 2011 to commercialize the SolarStream™ Awning System

Written by UO Business

The UO Lundquist College of Business empowers an engaged community of students, faculty, staff, and stakeholders who create, apply, and disseminate knowledge that contributes significantly to their professions, communities, and society. The college delivers a dynamic learning environment where world-class professors engage and get to know students, where students work on real projects for real companies, and where alumni go on to high-powered jobs worldwide.

Business as Unusual: Net Impact Conference 2010

2010Conf_keynotemontageOver this past weekend, I had the privilege of representing the U of O in Ann Arbor, Michigan at the 2010 Net Impact national conference. Thousands of MBA students and various professionals from across the country (and globe) came to the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business to showcase their passion for changing the landscape of business.

What struck me most was the fact that a mass gathering of business students driven to integrate societal and environmental concerns—and even costs—into traditional business models would have been completely unheard of 20 years ago (Net Impact itself was only founded in the early 90’s). What used to be reserved for small subcultures of cause-driven activists from various disciplines has now become a norm at almost every leading business school across the U.S.  This is exactly the type of momentum that is needed.

With an incredibly long and detailed list of panels to choose from, I ended up joining discussions on global corporate sustainability, carbon markets and regulation, energy efficiency finance models, ecosystems services and the future of small-scale solar project development.  Having the opportunity to hear how leaders in the field translate what we study in the classroom into working business models was not only helpful but inspiring.  And yet, there is still a considerable amount of uncertainty present within these fields, with such rapidly evolving business and regulatory landscapes, and training the next generation of business leaders to address such issues is becoming increasingly important.

Stay tuned for next year’s conference up the road in Portland.

–Greg Carlson, MBA 2011, Center for Sustainable Business Practices

Written by grimstad@uoregon.edu

Senior Honors Business Student

Change and Innovation in Detroit: Tolerance Tool and Engineering

October 28, 2010

I arrived in Michigan yesterday for the 2010Net ImpactConference.  This conference is one of the highlights of the year for UO Net Impact, our local chapter of the national student organization for corporate social responsibility and sustainability in business.

I was greeted at the airport by Sheryl Fiorentino.  Sheryl and her husband Jerry are the co-founders ofTolerance Tool and Engineering, a mechanical parts manufacturing company in Detroit.  They also happen to be the parents of Ryan Fiorentino, one of my new classmates in the CSBP!  They generously offered to host me on my first night in Michigan.

We visited the small plant where Jerry manages the manufacture of mechanical parts for automobiles, aircraft, and military vehicles.  The facility is set up for production runs of various steel and aluminum components – an excellent real world application of the operations management theories I learned in class last winter.  Yesterday they were making wheel hubs for a military mine-sweeping vehicle.  Precision and quality control are unquestionably essential.

Jerry explained to me how the nature of his business has changed dramatically since the business was founded over 30 years ago.  At the time, the company contracted almost exclusively with Detroit auto manufacturers.  These days, his contracts are much more diverse geographically and technically.  He showed me a prototype super-insulated ice container that he developed for a national airline.  The product will greatly reduce the amount of labor required to keep passenger beverages cool.

This family-owned company relies on hard work and innovation in order to remain competitive in an industry that has suffered greatly from free trade.  However, Jerry has found creative ways to reduce costs that have environmental benefits as well.  He showed me a waste management process he had developed that reduced the amount of hazardous material generated by their operation.  The process had helped him to reduce disposal costs for this particular waste by an order of magnitude!

After the plant tour, Jerry and Sheryl invited me to dinner in downtown Detroit.  The tough economic times that have visited this city are evident, but examples of renewal abound.  The recently constructed Tiger’s baseball stadium, just across the street from the Detroit Lion’s football stadium and not far from the Fox Theater, is located in the heart of downtown.  This new focus on centralization is an interesting example in urban density planning.  Perhaps a great case study for a future blog post…

Jaxon Love

Oregon MBA, 2011

President, UO Net Impact

Research Fellow, Labor Education and Research Center

Written by grimstad@uoregon.edu

Senior Honors Business Student