Sustainable Business Practices

The Sound of Sustainability

The modern symphonic orchestra is perhaps the greatest musical instrument ever invented. The cacophony of strings, winds, brass, and percussion is realized through proper preparation that includes all contracted musicians having practiced their fair share, full orchestral rehearsals, production coordination on stage, marketing, strategic planning, fundraising, and an audience to witness the final product. The conductor is the glue, the facilitator of the performance, responsible for interpreting the often-timeless compositions that were written over 100 years ago. She or he is responsible for the tempo, the balance, and the phrasing that is often nitpicked by critics to be too fast, too slow, to the extent that this interpretation is an insult to the classical music tradition.

You may be wondering what a symphony has to do with sustainable business practices. An organization has several moving parts and without proper coordination the core products may diminish in quality or the intended messaging of the product may not reach the target market. For example, if the marketing department is not in constant communication with R&D which is not in touch with legal, productivity is lost, financial growth potential is minimized, customer loyalty is diminished, and valuable resources are wasted. As businesses realize that incorporating social and environmental values within their mission leads to profitability, it becomes even more important for companies and departments to play in sync.

In my opinion, a business with mature sustainability practices functions akin to a nearly perfect performance of Dvorák’s Symphony No. 9, From The New World. And that is no easy feat. Each of the players has the responsibility to uphold their commitment to the rest of the ensemble, or else the entire collective can fall apart. In business, each employee and each department have a very specific duty to perform. The operations team requires precise control over its supply chain. And if a supplier is late, that can create backorders, and the marketing team needs to communicate with the unsatisfied customers…

Check out the final movement of The New World Symphony here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHqtJH2f1Yk

Note that during a section or instrumentalist solo, the rest of the orchestra is in tune with the soloist, literally and figuratively. Each of the sections understands when it’s time to play in the foreground, and when to be the support in the background. The conductor guides all of the performers. However, even if the conductor were absent from the scene, the orchestra would still be able to perform since each of the players is so well prepared. In an organization, the CEO and full executive team have the responsibility – I’ll spare the reader from belaboring the analogy…

A couple of weeks ago, I took over the University of Oregon’s Center for Sustainable Business Practices social media accounts and focused on the social benefits of renewable energy. A few notable mentions include the increase in jobs, stronger communities, and vast health benefits for regions that invest in renewables.

The sustainability revolution is here, and we are just starting to see new clean energy business models take shape through partnership flips and virtual power plants. It is imperative that organizations, startups and corporates, that have a mission which involves social and environmental advocacy and action, coordinate their various functions as if every day is a nearly perfect performance of The New World Symphony.

Written by nzolan

Ness has 10 years of operations and fundraising experience working with non-profits in the performing arts. He has held the roles of General Manager for the Eugene Symphony and Associate Producer for the Kennedy Center in Washington DC. Ness has worked with many politicians and celebrities but cares more about how many people he can convince to take up pogo sticking as a hobby, for the physical and mental benefits. Through the Oregon MBA, Ness is studying sustainability, innovation, strategy and leadership. Ness loves all people and the planet and wants to continue his service to bettering our society and the environment through business practices.

Takeaways from LEED GA Training

Last week a group of MBA students were given the opportunity to participate in a LEED Green Associate training by Leading Green. Many jumped at the chance to gain new skills and enhance their resume. I wanted to take a minute to share our experiences and explain why LEED is important.

What is LEED and why is it important?

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a rating system for green buildings created by the US Green Building Council. It can be used on all types of construction and provides a framework for healthy, efficient, and sustainable buildings. It is globally recognized and highly marketable, increasing the value of the building. LEED standards develop and grow over time and are approved by professionals within the industry.

It is important to note that a building can be LEED certified, but people can be accredited. The training we participated in was for the LEED GA accreditation. This is the foundational level of accreditation, which gives individuals an up to date understanding of green building practices.  Once you have earned your LEED GA, you can earn your LEED AP (advanced professional) and focus on a specific area within the rating system.

Attendee Reflections

I asked my fellow classmates to reflect on why they took this training and what they got out of it. A selection of their answers are below:

What are your professional goals?

Ian LeClair: I want to work in tech sector working on smart tech to improve energy efficiencies for large companies.

Rachael Caravone: I hope to work in an organization where I can help create solutions to make cities more livable. This requires a holistic view of energy, water, transportation, land use, and the built environment. Obtaining my LEED GA would give me another tool, and a better understanding of how systems thinking and sustainability in our buildings can help improve the livability in cities.

Aaron Bush: I’m currently exploring project management and consulting roles in renewable energy and the built environment. Having a strong understanding of LEED and other industry-leading practices or certifications will allow me to communicate more effectively across disciplines as well as take the lead on projects that involve construction and design.

Timothy Cohalan: My professional goal is to leverage the built environment to build community through sustainable real estate development.

Why were you interested in getting your LEED GA?

AB: The LEED Green Associate training and certification acts as a stamp showing my knowledge in a specific category. My experience in the Center for Sustainable Business Practices at the University of Oregon has provided a broad background on triple-bottom-line thinking, as well as factors influencing business behavior. However, because student interests are quiet broad, and sustainability every business category, the MBA program typically does not provide in-depth training or course material on individual topics. As a LEED Green Associate, I will have both broad knowledge and specific skills.

TC: The built environment is where most people spend the majority of their time.  It is also one of the largest consumers of energy and emitters of Green House Gases. Our building generally live longer lives then we do. That is why it is so important to get things right the first time.  As someone interested in shaping how we interact with our environment I want to make sure I am doing it the best way possible.  Getting my LEED GA accreditation is a great way to build my understanding of one of the most common pathway for that worldwide.

What piece of the training did you find most valuable?

IL: Being able to see how the training would fit into a future job workflow.

RC: I appreciated how the LEED certification process is tailored to the type of building or use, and the owner/developer can choose the options most relevant to their area or situation to gain points towards LEED certification. I was also pleasantly surprised about the evolution and updates made to the certification process.

AB: My view of LEED has always been that it is a certification centered around making buildings more energy efficient. I now understand that it is both wholistic and focused at the same time. LEED certification considers not only a building’s energy consumption, but also its ability to integrate with the greater environment and promote human wellbeing. For example, developers pursuing LEED are incentivized to build close to public transit and provide alternative modes of transportation. They get points for maintaining or improving nearby wetlands or other natural features. LEED takes into account human health by requiring proper ventilation and air quality. A LEED building is not just better for the environment, it is better for people.

TC: While I was familiar with the concepts of green building in general the training did an excellent job explaining how LEED breaks them down into categories and which categories were most emphasized.

What are your next steps in learning about the built environment?

RC: I would like to learn more about the LEED for Neighborhood Development certification too see how the process works for an entire community.

TC: As I continue in my career in real estate development I will look to industry leaders in green building for best practices. I will also learn more from the architects and contractors that I collaborate with.

Any other takeaways or pieces you would like to add?

AB: Our instructor, Lorne, explained that LEED is voluntary and typically surpasses standards set by local governments or typical industry practices. While LEED buildings often provide increased returns and higher market value compared to conventional buildings, they are still not the default option. I see huge opportunities to continue increasing best-practices and incorporate many of the most valuable lessons from LEED into a broader societal conversation about the built environment.

 

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.

Collaboration and Innovation – Steps Toward Responsibility in the Apparel Industry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by sholland

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

Oregon Companies, Making a Difference

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by bbuckles

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

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.

Food
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.

Waste
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.

Green Buildings: Bridging Health and Sustainability

I joined the 2018 MBA cohort in the Center for Sustainable Business Practices with a passion for the intersection of health and sustainability. The  connection between these two fields is not always obvious, and I would like to share some interesting highlights of  what I have learned and why it matters.

We often think of reducing resource consumption as a key part of sustainable management. According to the EPA, in the United States, buildings account for 39% of total energy use, 12% of the total water consumption, 68% of total electricity consumption, and 38% of the carbon dioxide emissions. Add to this that average Americans spend 90% of their time indoors. Green buildings have emerged as a way to reduce resource consumption, and it turns out these buildings also improve human health! How can this be possible?

Let’s start by looking at what green building is. According to the US Green Building Council:

“The definition of green building: Green building is a holistic concept that starts with the understanding that the built environment can have profound effects, both positive and negative, on the natural environment, as well as the people who inhabit buildings every day.”

The first part of that definition represents what we typically think – that green buildings are about energy efficiency, reducing emissions, and other environmental improvements. What I would like to focus on is the second part of the definition, the impact of green buildings on human health.

Recent studies suggest that working in a green building has measurable positive effects on cognitive performance, productivity, sleep quality, stress reduction, and overall wellness. Specifically, the COGfx Study found that cognitive testing scores doubled in LEED Certified green buildings. They coined the term “Buildingomics” and defined it as “a new approach that examines the totality of factors in the building-related environment that influence the human health, well-being and productivity of people who work in buildings” (http://naturalleader.com/thecogfxstudy/).

http://naturalleader.com/thecogfxstudy/

This relatively new school of thought has led to many companies implementing green workplaces in order to experience these health and productivity benefits, either by remodeling current facilities or ensuring new facilities are built with this in mind. For example, healthcare non-profit Kaiser Permanente has embraced this trend, working with AECOM on a hospital project in nearby Hillsboro, Oregon they built their first LEED Certified campus. It is not surprising healthcare organizations are eager to incorporate these projects, but beyond healthcare, The Society for Human Resource Management writes about the benefits of green buildings too, citing they can reduce sick leave, regulate both temperatures and noise, and remove air toxins (https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/employee-relations/pages/green-workplaces.aspx). ForHealth has created the diagram below to illustrate the overlap of green buildings and healthy inhabitants.

http://9foundations.forhealth.org/

Health is inexorably linked with sustainability. Yet, there is a tendency to think about the green movement on a macro level without understanding how it will impact each one of us. What I like about this recent study is that it provides concrete evidence for how one specific sustainability initiative – green buildings – has directly impacted human cognition and productivity.

So, why does this matter? The World Green Building Council sums it up well. “How do we accelerate energy efficient, environmentally sustainable, green building? We make it about people.” There is already strong environmental support behind the green movement, and now we can add another reason to get behind green efforts, and it’s something nearly everyone can rally for – our health!  Green buildings illustrate how health and sustainability can be neatly integrated, and remind us that increasing the number of people who are behind green initiatives will help guarantee a healthy environment for present and future generations.

Sources:

http://naturalleader.com/thecogfxstudy/

https://archive.epa.gov/greenbuilding/web/html/whybuild.html

http://9foundations.forhealth.org/

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/features/can-businesses-make-a-profit-while-saving-the-planet/?utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=Social&utm_campaign=Chan-Twitter-General

https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/employee-relations/pages/green-workplaces.aspx  (photo cred collage photo 1)

http://www.ambiusindoorplants.com.au/why-plants/case-studies/index.html (photo cred collage photo 2)

http://www.aecom.com/projects/kaiser-westside/?qm%5B0%5D=2463&qp=&qt=12 (photo cred collage photo 3)

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.

Winter Break Already?

“Before you know it, it will be winter break.” We kept hearing that over and over from the second year MBAs. I didn’t believe them. I’m sure my classmates would agree, looking at the workload, I didn’t know how we would get it all done, but we did. I know more about bonds, balance sheets, and beta, but I think I learned the most through my relationships with my classmates. Even though we all ended up in the same program, we came here from such different places looking for different things. I underestimated how valuable others’ backgrounds could be to my own experience.

Uncomfortable. One way I could describe how I felt going back to school in a new state across the country after 7 years in the working world. Let’s face it, no one likes feeling discomfort, but most of us came here to challenge ourselves, so it’s inevitable. Who likes to admit they’re confused? Wrong even? This was a regular occurrence for many of us. It felt less daunting when classmates mapped out a concept on the whiteboard before I could even ask for help. Or when multiple people came up to me after class to offer experiences on a topic I seemed interested in. I came to realize that a big part of getting an MBA is learning about yourself and how to bring authenticity to your future position. It is a lot easier to find that genuineness when others are so willing to share themselves.

I can now confirm that yes, the first term goes by lightning fast. We learned in management that, “close work friendships boost employee satisfaction by 50% and people with a best friend at work are seven times more likely to engage fully in their work.”* I think the same goes for business school. I mean, case and point – even after spending every waking moment together, we still want to sing karaoke on Thursdays together. Time and time again we heard that the key to success in the business world is teamwork and collaboration. Based on that, I think we’re going to have a very successful class walking into graduation day saying, “It’s over already?”

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*https://hbr.org/2013/07/we-all-need-friends-at-work

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.

Lessons from the Oregon MBA Part II: Interview with Oregon Advanced Strategy Professor Dr. Michael Crooke

PART II: 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.

If we know that sustainability is important for companies and that sustainable choices often lead to profits, why do you think more companies aren’t choosing the sustainable approach?

The first thing to say is that there aren’t any sustainable companies. There isn’t one company on the planet that is actually sustainable, that is, net neutral impact on the planet. We overuse that term. I would say, “We are on a path towards sustainability.” Companies that don’t subscribe to this way of thinking are becoming more rare. Many of the world’s largest organizations now subscribe to a GRI (Global Reporting Initiative). The first step is to measure where you are and what you are doing, and then set goals for how you want to improve. You’re not judged on how good or bad you are, you’re judged on if you are improving. Sustainability initiatives managers are smart – they can see that this is coming but they don’t know how to do it. One of my clients simply had to bring millennials into their strategic planning process, and now they have all kinds of new ideas around sustainability. 250 companies hold ¾ of the world’s GDP; the power is with the corporations. That’s where change has to happen.

 

Is sustainability being driven by corporations’ deeper sense of responsibility? Or are firms responding to consumer demand?

 I think it’s both. It’s very difficult to argue that global warming isn’t real. It’s a powerful rising of the tide and it’s happening in real time, so companies know they need to get in front of that. If they’re on the backside of that and their competitors launch a similar product that’s more sustainably made, they’re not only going to have lower costs down the road, but the customers are going to follow those companies. I had the opportunity to speak with Steve Jobs in 2008 and spent about an hour with him in his office. He thought that within 15 years the environmental aspect of his product was going to be as important as the form and function of his product. He was such a visionary, he could see beyond the horizon, and he was already building that into the company.

Consumers are demanding it. They want to see it in everything they do, what they wear, what they eat, the kind of house they live in, etc., just like any trend. When we started using organic cotton at Patagonia our jeans were $85. Now you can basically buy the same pair of organic jeans at Wal-Mart for $13. Whole Foods started supplying organic food to the masses and now Costco is the #1 organic food supplier in the world. It’s happening at different rates in different places, but overall from a regression line point of view I think it’s a rising tide and everyone will be able to benefit.

 

What is the role of government and policy in driving sustainability?

 Think of the greatest environmental presidents of our time. Why is Nixon one of them? That’s when the Clean Water Act was passed, and the Endangered Species Act – all of these major policies happened under Nixon, a Republican. I think the leadership has to come from government. Think about what those laws have done and how the basis for environmentalism was created in the 1970’s. Go back to the beginning and think about the food movement and Rachel Carson and Silent Spring (1962), and the power a book like that can have. I think it’s certainly synergistic, but the bottom line is that you need a progressive government. You need a government that understands and protects the people in our capitalistic society. There are a lot of people that believe in the Adam Smith model that a manager’s duty is to make money for shareholders. [There is] no mention of shared value or of societal value. That’s where you start to see b-corporations and nonprofits. Government is very important and it has to work hand in hand with the pioneers; the Yvon Chouinards, the Rachel Carsons, the Anita Roddicks of the world.

 

Do you think there could be a point where sustainability will no longer offer a competitive advantage because it’s such common practice?

 I don’t see that, certainly not in my lifetime. If you take the absolute ideal of what sustainability could be, Michael Braungart’s Cradle To Cradle (2002), you get done with your shirt, throw it into your garden, it composts, the organic and inorganic compounds go back into the soil, and there was no net loss of nutrients in that product. We’re a long ways off from that. But that’s the brilliance of Cradle To Cradle, to lay that concept out and really look at what that panacea could be. Or like the rocket fuel that was proposed at the New Venture Championships in Portland. The fuel was 50-60% more environmentally friendly, it worked better, and rockets could go farther. Sustainability was at the heart of that whole technology and they won the competition. We might be forced into that sort of thinking. We might not have a choice. Mars might not be ready yet.

Written by Anna Raithel

Anna is pursuing an MBA with a focus in Sustainable Business Practices, graduating 2017.

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.

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.