Posts Tagged ‘Net Impact’

Brewery Tour

January 27, 2014

Tour SetupThis was a recipe for success. My local Net Impact chapter was hosting a brewery tour at the popular Yards Brewery in Philadelphia. Net Impact is all about folks making social change via the workplace and their employers. Yards is a popular brewery that has won a batch of awards for its brews. It was an easy decision to go to this event.

The brewing space at Yards was designed to easily accommodate tours such as ours. In our case, the tour’s content was tinged somewhat to emphasize the sustainability aspects of Yards’ brewing process. The beer brewing process (as I recall our tour guide’s description) has ample opportunities incorporate sustainability into the process. Some companies (like Yards) will take more advantage of them than others.


One of the most interesting parts of the tour had to do with ingredients. Yards is akin to manufacturing businesses in that they take inputs (wheat, hops, water, etc), transform them by brewing them into another product (beer), all the while minimizing waste. Most of their hops come from specific areas on the West Coast, but they have also been able to locate some more “local” (closer) hops. One especially interesting aspect of “sustainable” ingredients is being able to use the same (patented) strain of yeast up to 12 times.

At the end of the brewing process, there are often “soggy grains” that Yards can’t use. However, a suburban bison farm and a bakery in Northeast Philadelphia can. The soggy grains go to these business. In turn, Yards serves bison from that bison farm and bread from that bakery on their menu. I thought that this was one of the most creative applications of recycling in a business setting that I had ever heard of. Next time I go to Yards I will need to close the loop on this and taste the bison and bread from the menu.

Like many breweries (but not all), Yards uses brown bottles for its beer. The performance aspect is that the beer keeps better in brown bottles (not exposed to sunlight). The environmental aspect is that the glass has already been recycled before it gets to Yards.

Aside from different aspects of the brewing process, the brewery building itself has some sustainable aspects. For example, one of the reasons Yards did not paint the walls was that they did not want to release any of the VOCs (volatile organic compounds) into the air. Additionally, some parts of the floor are low VOC soy concrete sealed (as opposed to regular concrete sealers). And yes, Yards has chosen to source its power from 100% wind– (see linked post below about buying “wind” or “water” power really means from a customer point of view).

beerSo the Yards brewery tour experience ended up being a winner on several fronts. First, the beer tasted good (I even bought a six pack there). Second, the brewery and the brewing process have some sustainability elements. Third, the Philadelphia chapter of Net Impact created a great event–and I am looking forward to many more.

Net Impact

Can I Really Buy Green Power?

Net Impact–MBAs and More

November 27, 2009

There have been numerous changes to MBA programs over the past several years. One of the more refreshing ones is the increasing prominence of an organization called Net Impact. Net Impact is an organization of business students (and interested graduates and others involved in the business community) who believe that the “power of business can be used to improve the world”. From its beginnings as the Students for Responsible Business in 1993 with 6 chapters (in 1994 I started the Penn State chapter of that organization), Net Impact has evolved to over 200 chapters, including over 120 at leading graduate schools across the world.

Net Impact’s reach is very impressive. The core of the organization is the chapters. All of the top MBA programs have a student chapter. Many U.S. cities including Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, New Haven, and several abroad (Seoul, Tokyo, London, etc.) have professional chapters also.

In addition to the chapters, Net Impact also has national and international conferences. The 2009 conference featured the CEO of GE, Jeffrey Immelt as well as Cornell’s president David Skorton, speaking on innovation in a green economy. The European conference a couple of years ago featured the theme: Sustainable Prosperity—Taking on the Global Challenge.” Additionally, numerous organizations use Net Impact as a recruiting vehicle to help with various sustainability efforts.

Of equal interest are the ‘Issues In Depth Calls”. These are conference calls with representatives of companies implementing various types of social engagement—including but not limited to sustainability per se. Upcoming topics for these calls include “Driving Sustainable Growth (Dupont) and “The Holy Grail of Sustainable Culture” (FMYI). Other events have covered very diverse topics, including: “Writing a Sustainability Report”, “Green Jobs”, “How to Develop an Eco-Purchasing System”, and “Green Benefits”, etc.

When I found out about the organization, I eagerly joined my local professional chapter (Philadelphia). I was very happy to find out that it was a very active chapter—with lots of events and programs. The programming schedule has included monthly book clubs, periodic volunteer days, occasional happy hours, panel discussions, research projects, and more. Most important to me, it is local, so I can actually participate in the programs.

Meeting other like-minded people (such as those in the Philly chapter) is a great way to help me incorporate sustainability into my own life. For example, my wife and I love fish. Via Net Impact, I have heard about a seafood store in Philadelphia that specializes in sustainable seafood (Otolith Seafood). I am looking forward to enrolling in their Community Supported Seafood program in the spring. Without Net Impact, I would have had no idea that this program even existed.

We are Penn State!–Paper!

February 28, 2009

We Penn Staters are loud and proud. Yes, the cheer really is We Are—Penn State! I have amended the traditional PSU cheer for a reason. The folks who purchase Penn State’s janitorial paper wanted to add a sustainability component to their next contract. Janitorial paper is bathroom tissue, paper towels, paper napkins, facial tissue, etc. They asked if a group of MBA students would be interested in developing a “sustainability scorecard” to help them do this. The result of this effort was a 1-credit “Sustainable Procurement Practicum” in the MBA program in the fall of 2008.

A long time professor at the University, Dr. Terry Harrison, taught the class. I happen to have had one if his courses (Quantitative Business Analysis) when I was at Penn State—so I know from personal experience that the result of this practicum was backed up by solid research. The students were mostly, but not all, members of an organization called Net Impact, which focuses on how business can strengthen communities and improve environmental stewardship (in addition to being profitable, of course).

The research included many items in addition to the specific sustainability criteria. These aspects included the current procurement process and general contract requirements, product performance, price, the experience of peer institutions, the best method for evaluating the actual sustainability dimensions of the products, and specific technical knowledge of how these products are manufactured. As an example of the complexity of the data, the final report identifies upwards of twenty different items that could have conceivably been on the scorecard.

At the end, the sustainability scorecard had 6 criteria: Pre/Post Consumer Recycled Content (with targets); Forest Certification (either Forest Stewardship Council, Sustainable Forestry Institute or both); Packaging Recycled Content; and various aspects of being chlorine free in the product manufacturing process. There were also very important usability considerations. With only 6 mostly numeric or yes/no criteria, it is easy for a supplier to input their specific information. Even more important, it is easy for the procurement folks to incorporate the results into their contracting decision.

In other words, the sustainability scorecard can and will be used. Sounds like a successful integration of sustainability into a regular business process to me. Makes me just a little bit happier I am a Penn Stater.

I want to thank Matthew Holtry, the president of the Penn State University chapter of Net Impact, for posting the practicum’s report on his LinkedIn profile, It is fascinating reading.

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