Sustainable Business Practices

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.

Sports + CSR

Recently I joined the Warsaw Sports Marketing Center on their experiential learning trip to NYC. This included visits to ESPN, the NFL, the NBA and the New York Road Runners. Since I was the only student from the Center for Sustainable Business Practices on these visits, I thought discussing what corporate social responsibility means in the world of sports would be an interesting blog post.

In a session on sustainability reporting at the SXSW Eco Conference 2015 that I attended last year, Tim Mohin said that companies should measure and report on the impact areas that are most relevant to their business. For professional sports teams and leagues, this means focusing on youth, community, and physical and mental health.

In case you live under a rock or don’t follow the latest sports gossip, the NFL has come under fire in the last few years due to some high-profile domestic violence cases amongst key players. In response, the NFL has introduced numerous initiatives to address domestic violence with players and in the community. While the NFL would tell you that this is part of their commitment to social responsibility, I would argue that this is simply good PR.

Missing from the conversations this week, however, was a discussion of the environmental impacts of professional sports games. These games require substantial electricity and generate large amounts of waste, but managing these impacts often falls on the stadiums themselves. And most of the time, stadiums don’t even have recycling bins. To improve corporate social responsibility in the professional sports industry, teams and leagues should partner with their home stadiums to decrease their environmental impact.

The San Francisco 49ers are a perfect example of how a professional team can address both social and environmental responsibility. Their brand new Levi’s stadium is LEED Gold certified and is the first to utilize recycled water for field irrigation and other essential stadium functions. According to an article by the Green Sports Alliance, “the cooperation between the 49ers and local government and other organizations shows that strong partnerships can help to conserve natural resources and set new environmental standards for sports venues.”

stadiumview

The 49ers stadium is touted as the greenest stadium in the NFL

Experiential learning trips with my cohort are always eye opening, and I’m glad I had this opportunity to dig deeper into what CSR means in the sports industry.

Written by Katie Clark

Katie is a second year MBA student in the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. Over the summer, Katie worked for Happy Family Brands as the Corporate Social Responsibility Intern, where she managed multiple supply chain projects and provided employee education on topics in sustainability. She hopes to bring this experience and her MBA coursework to a strategic sustainability position in a mission-driven company in the outdoor product or natural foods industry.

Green is the New Black

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Written by Kate Hammarback

Kate is a 2017 MBA/MPA from the Center for Sustainable Business Practices. Originally from Wisconsin, Kate graduated with honors from the University of Wisconsin with a political science degree and spent time working in state and national politics before pivoting to nonprofit resource and program development. Kate is an active member of LiveMove and Net Impact and is happiest when working at the intersection of policy, planning, and business development through social and sustainable enterprise. After graduation, she plans to work where she can use finance and sustainability strategy to impact the triple bottom line.

#MyOutdoorStory an Outdoor Industry Association Movement

#MyOutdoorStory

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Written by Natalie Colvin

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

Growing a Sustainable Diet

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Written by Joey Jaraczewski

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Written by Eric Parsons

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