Posts Tagged ‘triple bottom line’

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.

A New Year’s Gift To Myself–Part One

December 24, 2008

It is the holiday season, and it is the time for gift giving. This year, I have decided to give myself a gift. For my gift, I’ve decided to attempt to define sustainability for myself. What do I mean what I say I am interested in “sustainability”? Inquiring minds including mine might want to know (and not just those inquiring minds who read tabloid media). So I gave myself a deadline of Christmas day to create a personal definition of sustainability. This also allows a full week for my personalized definition to sink in before the New Year of 2009 begins for real. That way I can start with New Year looking for ways to implement my brand new definition.

It turns out that I actually need a personalized definition because there is no standard definition of sustainability. I guess a standard definition is one that everyone agrees on, kind of like red traffic lights mean stop.

A good place to start is the “triple bottom line” concept. The Triple Bottom Line concept is People, Planet, and Profit. A growing number of businesses are evaluating their ability to not just maximize their own profits. They are also measuring their impact upon the planet, and also on how they support their various stakeholders—customers, employees, investors, suppliers, communities, etc. That is a very good model, and if more businesses did that I think we would be much better off. There is more to life than money, and the triple bottom line idea reflects that. Ask any entrepreneur if they derive satisfaction from their business beyond the profit/loss number and I’ll bet that a great majority would respond with a resounding yes. If entrepreneurs can, why can’t their organizations also?

However, I also wanted a broader definition of sustainability. I found one in a surprising place—Whistler Canada—the home of one of the best ski resorts in the world. They have a Whistler 2020 sustainability plan, which I paraphrase from here:

The Earth is a system, and natural cycles are essential to the health of this system. Sustainability is about natural cycles running in perpetuity. We can help maintain these natural cycles by 1) reducing the amount of natural resources we need to extract from the Earth in the first place, 2) using less artificial substances and chemicals as we can, 3) preserving the open land and natural environment which is left, and 4) proactively attempting to refrain from exploiting the providers and suppliers of our goods and services. (Website:
http://www.whistler2020.ca/whistler/site/genericPage.acds?context=1967874&instanceid=1967875 )

I like both of these perspectives individually. I also like the combination of the economic and human perspective (the triple bottom line) paired with the implicitly spiritual one (System Earth). So my gift to myself has become a way to not only incorporate environmental and community impacts into my buying and lifestyle decisions, but also to experience some potential for spiritual understanding while doing so. Who knew?


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