Natural Products Expo West: Lessons from Outside the Classroom

In the United States the natural foods and products industry is never more celebrated that it is at Expo West. Natural Products Exposition West is an extravagant display of the veterans, the staples and the startups in the natural products world. Every March, the Anaheim Convention Center floods with over 85,000 attendees and all the product samples that you could ever wish for. As an event that is built for CPGs (Consumer Packaged Goods) and retailers, it is not often that students interested in the natural products space get to take advantage of the networking opportunities abound at such an event. Luckily for myself and a few other UOMBA students, MBArk has emerged as a program that not only sponsors MBAs from across the country to attend the conference, but also arranges meet and greets with C-suite executives of some of the biggest brands in the industry.

The Natural Products Industry has grown exponentially in the last decade as consumers become smarter and better informed. From plant-based sausage to the first cold-pressed baby food to hit the market, companies are answering consumer calls for better food, safer products, and more brand transparency. The call for brand transparency is something that I took from Expo West and turned into a project with a baby food company. Myself and a colleague are conducting a brand audit on this company’s sustainability messaging and we recently ran a focus group to deep-dive into consumers’ most pertinent concerns with personal health, planet health, and product transparency. We’ll be reporting on our findings and recommendations to the company and our branding class in just a couple weeks.

Ultimately, Expo West and the MBArk program was an enlightening experience. It was inspiring to see how many fellow MBAs from across the country are hoping to leverage their career to make better products to support a healthier population. Beyond creating and supporting brands and products, my cross-country peers are also considering the social, cultural, political, and economic barriers that keep many consumers from accessing healthier options in the first place. Within the Center for Sustainable Business here at the Lundquist College of Business we are challenged to think critically about the forces that contribute to inequality and how businesses and interdisciplinary partners can use their voice and power to change the status quo. Within the traditionally competitive environment of business school, I have found an immense eagerness to collaborate within my own program and across schools.

Written by Daryl Mogilewsky

Daryl is a 2019 MBA in the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. She is a values-driven marketing and communications professional who is inspired by the complicated landscape of making the business case for doing good while doing well.

Inspiration from the 2018 Global Wave Conference

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by sholland

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

Collaboration and Innovation – Steps Toward Responsibility in the Apparel Industry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by sholland

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

Sustainability, a Buzz Word at Outdoor Retailer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by staciab

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

The Power of Young Brands


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

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

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

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

Written by phazelet

A cat-astrophe in the making: pets and sustainability

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by mblake

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

Food & Sustainability

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

Vermont, photo by Stacia Betley

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bananas, photo by Stacia Betley


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

Sustainable Diets: What You Need to Know in 12 Charts | World Resources Institute. (2018). Retrieved 11 January 2018, from

Written by staciab

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

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.




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.

Reflections on a Case Competition

Ok, deep breath, you got this, 15 minutes and it’s all over. This is what was going through my head right before presenting in the final round of the Simon Fraser University Sustainability Challenge. This was my first live case competition and I never thought our team would get this far. We were three Americans, competing in Canada, in a business and cultural setting we knew little about despite the similarities between our countries.

When we first heard about the SFU Sustainability Challenge, my team including Seth Lenaerts, Leah Goodman, and I, were all excited. We saw it as a great opportunity to compete in an international live case competition with a focus on sustainability.  Once we saw the case, however, we knew it was going to test our education, business ethics, and values. The case prompt was to provide feasibility and pre-engagement advice to the FortisBC team with respect to the potential for natural gas conversions in First Nations communities on Vancouver Island. Our initial reaction was, “are we supposed to market natural gas to First Nation communities?” It was difficult to see the link to sustainability and tested our ethics.

Feeling confused and a bit disheartened we sought guidance from a couple of advisors. We were questioning our values and trying to decide what our next step should be. Upon re-reading the case we realized we were not being asked to come up with a marketing plan but to consider if natural gas could be an option for these communities, what these communities’ values were, and how these related to the natural gas company. Once we realized this, we were reenergized and dove back into the case, viewing it as a challenge to bring environmental values to a fossil fuel company.

Incorporating sustainability into our proposal was not the only challenge we faced. We were also dealing with the cultural differences between Canada and the United States. Canada is a big proponent of natural gas as a clean energy source whereas our group still viewed it as an extractive fossil fuel. We were also playing catch up on the cultural context and understanding the history and relationship of First Nation communities in Canada. While these challenges hampered our understanding of the case initially, having an outsider’s perspective may have helped us in the end.

Our team worked wonderfully together, building off each other’s ideas and helping each other understand the nuances of the case. When someone struggled with an idea or concept we would take the time to go over the issue and ensure everyone was on the same page, often leading to a breakthrough in how we structured our case. Our finalized product was something we could all be proud of, a values-driven suggestion on how FortisBC could use renewable natural gas (something they were currently offering at a premium) to these First Nation communities.

When we made it to Canada we weren’t quite sure what to expect. During the opening ceremony, we were chosen as the first to present the following day. We quickly returned to our hotel room and practiced our presentation until we knew it backwards and forwards. We felt good about our presentation but were not confident we would move onto finals.

The next morning, we got ready, practiced once more, and headed off to present. Wow, that was rough. We were torn apart by the questions the judges asked us. We recognized our weaknesses: some points weren’t supported enough, some examples not fleshed out, some questions we simply couldn’t answer. At that point, it was hard to focus on what we did well, especially without getting to see other presentations for comparison. We decided that no matter what, this was a valuable experience and at least we would be able to see the final presentations to learn what a winning presentation would look like.

After a few hours exploring beautiful Vancouver we came back to hear who would move onto the finals. Four finalists were chosen, each picked out of a cup in dramatic fashion to determine what order teams would present in. Once the third name had been called our team was pretty convinced we were not going to be picked; we were happy to simply enjoy the other presentations and learn from our competitors. Then it happened, they called our name “Sustainasaurus.” We were to be the last finalist presentation!

A variety of emotions passed through our group from disbelief and excitement about making it to the finals to disappointment that we would be unable to see any other presentations. After taking in this new information we quickly made our way downstairs where we would spend the next two hours practicing our presentation and working on answering those tough questions we faced during the first round.

And now here I am, taking a deep breath and about to step out in front of the panel of judges and students. Our presentation went well. Again, we were faced with tough questions, many of which we could answer well, some of which we had no answer for. We then took a seat ready to hear the judges overall feedback for the day.

We all got it wrong. Almost every single team managed to read the case incorrectly. We were never asked for a plan on how natural gas could work for First Nation communities. We were asked what information the company needed to gather in order to make their own plan. The entire audience of students sat stunned once we heard that. A case that did not require a plan of action? Being MBA students meant we were trained to associate presenting cases with presenting solutions. The judges went on to give us more feedback on how the teams could have performed better, what information could have been included and what information should not have been.

We reflected on what had just happened and were reeling from some of the feedback we had heard. We felt good about our presentation but had no context on how we compared to others. We didn’t know if the judges only hit us with the tough questions or if everyone had faced those. We didn’t even know what other teams had proposed to see if what we said was even viable.

Walking into the ending ceremony felt amazing. There was a giant sense of relief that presentations were over and that, no matter what, we had made it to the finals. When they began to announce the winners, there was a sudden hush around the room as we all crowded around the podium.

“Third place goes to team Sustainasaurus.”

No one has been more excited to receive third place then us. We quickly found each other in the room and made it up to the podium. For the rest of the night people kept coming up and congratulating us; we could not have been happier! We made positive connections with other competitors and professionals within the industry, several of whom we are looking to work with in the future.

We learned a lot from this experience and are eagerly looking forward to taking that knowledge with us when competing in future case competitions.

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.

Experiential Learning in Portland: A Sustainability Cornucopia

It was a dark and stormy night. Okay, it was technically morning as the Center for Sustainable Business Practices’ 1st-year cohort gathered near the edge of campus in preparation for our first Experiential Learning trip. The destination: Portland, Oregon, home to some great street food, a thriving urban culture, and a number of businesses and organizations making terrific strides toward environmental and social sustainability.

Our first stop was at Mercy Corps, a non-profit aid agency that assists areas around the world hit by environmental disaster, conflict, and economic hardship. Locally, Mercy Corps Northwest helps strengthen community bonds through business development and training, prison re-entry programs, and economic development. Their latest project is a Community Investment Trust, an investment vehicle designed to give low-income residents an ownership stake in their neighborhoods. After a brief tour, we sat down for some Q&A with Mercy Corps’ Sven Gatchev, Ecova’s Cassidy Williams, and the Bonneville Environmental Foundation’s Sara Hoversten. All three are CSBP alum who are doing amazing work in Portland and the greater Pacific Northwest. It was a great opportunity to hear what’s going on in the real world, the problems people are taking on, and the work being done to make the world a better place.

Then it was back into the vans to head over to Columbia Sportswear. Founded in 1938, Columbia is an internationally-recognized brand with annual sales in the billions. The company is probably best-known for “Ma Gert” Boyle, one of the founding members who ran the company for years with her son Tim. At 95, Boyle still punches the clock from 9-5, Monday-Friday.

After a tour of the Columbia campus, we sat down for a panel discussion with several of the company’s executives. The panel included Steve Woodside, Senior Vice President for Global Sourcing and Managing; Doug Morse, VP, Chief Business Development Officer; Mike Peel, Senior Manager of Indirect Procurement; Valerie Morse, Global Consumer Insights Director; and CSBP’s own Guru Khalsa, Columbia’s Sustainability Director. This group provided insights into their industry, their personal and professional journeys, and keys to success, among other things. Columbia’s commitment to environmental stewardship is impressive, and the fact that they would sit their high-level executives in front of us for over an hour spoke volumes about their culture and willingness to give back.

As we rolled back into Eugene later that night, tired and road-weary, there was a mixture of emotions, but the most tangible was gratitude. Gratitude to the humble, inspiring professionals who took time out of their busy days to meet with us, to my classmates for being engaged and curious, and to everyone who helped plan and organize this experience. There was also an understanding that we have the responsibility to pay this experience forward in a few years, to the next flock of ducks.

“We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems” – John Gardner

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.