Food for Thought: Questions From the National Net Impact Conference

This post was written by Arielle Tatar ‘18

As members of The Sustainable Innovation MBA’s local chapter, Sarah Healey ‘18 and I attended the national Net Impact conference in Atlanta, GA in late-October.

All the sessions and keynotes were, of course, very informative and interesting (I am happy to share my notes to anyone who is interested in the speakers and discussions. Email me your contact information).

However, I’d like to challenge you to think about different perspectives of sustainability. I attended multiple small group sessions revolving around the food and agriculture industries. The following questions were brought up by either the speakers or members of the audience.

Topic: Sustainable Agriculture in the 21st Century:

Panelists: Jerry Lynch, VP of Sustainability, General Mills; Keith Kenny, VP of Sustainability, McDonald’s; Shari Rogge-Fidler, CEO, Applied Geosolutions; Will Harris, 6th generation Georgia farmer

  1. There​ ​are​ ​struggles​ ​with​ ​commodities​ ​that​ ​are​ ​geographically​ ​specific​. How​ ​do​ ​we​ ​support those​ ​farmers​ ​and​ ​support​ ​resilience?
  2. What are the challenges as we look to the future?
  3. What are the barriers to catalyzing change and how do we overcome them?
  4. How do you quantify environmental risk?
  5. How can we think differently to achieve our agriculture objectives?
  6. What is our mutual responsibility to both people and the world?
  7. How do we keep using food to bond people together?
  8. How do we make industrial farms more sustainable?
  9. What excites you about the future of sustainable agriculture?
  10. How do you help other farms by being a role model?

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Tech Start-Up Helps Farmers Grow More, Waste Less

This article was written by Margaret Arzon ’17 and originally appeared at PYXERAGlobal.org. Margaret is currently a Business Strategy Consultant.

Accessing Information through Mobile Technology Gives Smallholder Farmers Much-Needed Support

Walking through the streets of India, it’s hard not to notice the plethora of fresh fruits and vegetables that line the sidewalks, pretty much everywhere you go. Just a short 30-minute drive out of the city center lands you in acres of cultivated fields where many of these crops originate.

Roughly 50 percent of India’s workforce is devoted to agriculture. This demographic is common in many other emerging and frontier countries where a dominant proportion of the population relies on farming for its livelihood. Smallholder farmer is a title given to people who own less than five acres of arable land. The vast majority of smallholder farmers live in a cyclical pattern of poverty as they struggle to access markets and sell their products at the best price. Lack of market access means that farmers often lose money, even in a high growth season, and a perfectly good harvest goes to waste. With such a fragmented system in rural areas, it is extremely challenging for farmers to generate a profit to support themselves and their families.

Lack of market access means that farmers often lose money, even in a high growth season, and a perfectly good harvest goes to waste. With such a fragmented system in rural areas, it is extremely challenging for farmers to generate a profit to support themselves and their families.

Smallholder farmers are not insignificant. Collectively, they represent 500 million farms around the world and employ approximately 2 billion people. They are responsible for about 80 percent of the food consumed in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. As the global population size charges toward an estimated 9 billion by 2050, the demand on smallholder farmers to increase crop yield will only continue to rise, along with the critical need to mitigate post-harvest losses. Analysts predict that food access will need to increase by 70 percent to feed 2 billion additional people on the planet, and production in developing countries would need to almost double. Food security is a global issue, and one that requires partnerships across all sectors to solve.

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Knowing Your Impact: Food Waste

This post was written by Sarah Healey ’18

The Net Impact Graduate Chapter at the University of Vermont is designed to supplement learning experiences for students in the Sustainable Innovation MBA program. For our first event of the year a number of chapter members took a field trip to the Green Mountain Compost Facility in Williston, Vt..

At the facility we got a lesson and a tour from Robin Orr, the Events and Hospitality Outreach Coordinator for the Chittenden Solid Waste District (CSWD).

How much are we throwing away?
Every year Vermonters send 4,000 truckloads of trash to the only landfill in the state. Approximately half of this trash is actually trash. The other half consists of items that could have been diverted either to a recycling facility or a compost facility.

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Whole Foods Features Alumnus-Founded Sap! As Part of Its Top 10 Food Trends for 2018

Whole Foods Market, the mission-driven food retailer that bills itself as America’s healthiest grocery store, has released its Top 10 Food Trends for 2018, and the list features Sap!, a Vermont maple water beverage producer co-founded by entrepreneur Chas Smith ’15, a member of the pioneer cohort of The Sustainable Innovation MBA.

Coming in at number ten in the list of trends to try is a category of beverages — flavored sparkling water — that Whole Foods dubbed “the other bubbly:”

“There’s an entire booming category of sparkling beverages vying for consumer attention. Just don’t call them “soda.” These drinks are a far cry from their sugary predecessors.”

Whole Foods urges consumers to try Sap! and a number of other options.

Sap! was launched by Chas, his cousin Nikita, and his father Charlie, and took flight while Chas was working toward his MBA here at UVM. Their company is fueled by their passion for the maple and birch industry, their dedication to Vermont and the working landscape, and their excitement to build a company that embodies these values.

Sap! bills its products as non-alcoholic beverages made from 100 percent natural maple syrup and healthy alternatives to sugar-sweetened drinks. Sap! products can be found in Vermont, throughout New England, New York City, and worldwide on Amazon.

UVM’s Sustainable Innovation MBA Ranked No. 1 Best Green MBA in America by ‘The Princeton Review’

This article was written by Jon Reidel and originally appeared at UVM.edu.

Six years ago when Sanjay Sharma took over as dean of the Grossman School of Business, he set his sights on an ambitious goal: to become the top MBA program in the country for sustainable innovation.

On the rise. UVM has been ranked No. 1 on The Princeton Review’s 2018 list of “Best Green MBA” programs. (Photo: Sally McCay)

That dream became reality on Oct. 31 when The Princeton Review ranked the University of Vermont Grossman School of Business’ Sustainable Innovation MBA program No. 1 on its 2018 list of “Best Green MBA” programs. UVM took over the top spot from the University of Oregon, which dropped to No. 4 behind second-place Yale and Portland State, followed by No. 5 Stanford.

The decision to replace a traditional 38-year-old MBA program with the nation’s first one-year AACSB-accredited MBA focused entirely on sustainable innovation seemed risky, but according to Sharma, was perfect timing. A growing demand by companies seeking managers to convert global sustainability challenges into business opportunities for triple bottom line performance – a measure of a company’s financial, social and environmental impact – was undeniable.

“We were fortunate that the Vermont brand and UVM’s strengths and identity resonated with the sustainability ethos,” says Sharma. “While it was a major risk for the school, we decided to take a big leap and go ‘all in’ because we were convinced that the future of business education was to educate managers for tomorrow so that they could develop profitable business solutions to societal needs and demands for the next 50 years.”

The “Best Green MBA” rankings are based on students’ assessments of how well their school is preparing them in environmental/sustainability and social responsibility issues, and for a career in a green job market. The Grossman School of Business’ Sustainable Innovation MBA was also included in The Princeton Review’s list of the 267 Outstanding On-Campus MBA programs. This list was based on data from surveys of 23,000 students attending the schools and of administrators at the graduate schools.

Worldwide practicums with top companies, access to exclusive job network set program apart.

A number of aspects of UVM’s Sustainable Innovation MBA set it apart from other programs. The course curriculum, based entirely on sustainability and innovation, is delivered by world class faculty in this arena under four modules: foundations of management; building a sustainable enterprise; growing a sustainable enterprise; and focusing on sustainability.

Following coursework, students engage in a three-month practicum – a capstone experiential project to address issues such as poverty, climate change, and the environment – with companies like PepsiCo, 1% For the Planet, Philips, Ingersoll Rand, Burton, Keurig, and Facebook. Students traveled to India, Mexico, Ghana, Brazil, Denmark, China, Kenya, and Guatemala to complete practicums, which have led to sustainability and innovation-related jobs at Ben & Jerry’s, King Arthur Flour, Pottery Barn, Seventh Generation and others.

Students also have access to a new career management system called “Launch” designed to propel them into careers in renewable energy, clean tech, affordable health care, inclusive business, entrepreneurship within larger companies, start-ups, and other innovative ventures. The program’s Changemaker Network, composed of more than 125 companies and individuals focused on sustainable business, puts students in direct contact with mentors who help them land jobs within the program’s condensed 12-month format.

“We devote one hundred percent of our energy to creating a robust back end that injects people into an opportunity network that helps students realize their personal and professional dreams,” says professor and Sustainable Innovation MBA co-director Stuart Hart, the world’s leading authority on the implications of environment and poverty for business strategy. “If you are a student interested in figuring out how to use the power of business and enterprise to make a positive impact on the world, that’s all we do.”

The Princeton Review ranking comes on the heels of a No. 8 ranking by Corporate Knights – a Toronto-based media and research company focused on clean capitalism – in its “Better World MBA Rankings.” The UVM program moved up two spots from last year and is now ranked third among U.S. schools, trailing only Duquesne University and MIT’s Sloan School of Management.

Corporate Knights ranks programs based on the number of core courses, institutes and centers, and faculty research produced in the last three years related to sustainability, including corporate responsibility, human rights, and ethics.

“We are excited to teach and help launch the next generation of innovative leaders who will create the kinds of transformative sustainable business models and strategies that the world demands,” says professor and co-director David Jones. “We are also honored to have our unique MBA program recognized by these organizations after just our third cohort of graduates.”

An MBA Finds Cold Comfort In Solving A Nation’s Food Waste

This article was written by Taylor Ralph ’17 and originally appeared at GreenBiz.com. Taylor is currently an Agricultural Supply Chains Consultant at SSG Advisors.

 

This spring, a global manufacturer of industrial refrigeration equipment asked me and another MBA candidate — eager, passionate students with a slew of newly minted sustainable business pedagogies in our quiver — to explore emerging market opportunities that also tackled global social and environmental issues. Our project was a result of the company’s strategic focus on tackling major world issues that go beyond eco-efficiency, such as food loss.

Sellers at a warehouse in São Paulo, Brazil, unload a truck of unrefrigerated watermelons.

My classmate Brett Spusta and I began the project with two parameters: we’d be exploring the issue of food loss and we’d be doing so in Brazil. Beyond that, it was up to us to narrow the scope of our research, develop a team of research partners on the ground, ask the right questions and formulate strategies that could produce cold chain innovation, create meaningful social and environmental impact and be scaled.

It was an MBA student’s dream come true.

What began as a cumbersome undertaking crystallized into a specific, surprising and insightful set of actionable recommendations tailored to Brazil’s unique market.

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The Cape Wind Project: The Importance of Strategic Messaging

A student team in The Sustainable Innovation MBA Class of 2018 conducted this speculative case analysis in their “Sustainable Brand Marketing” course for the ill-fated Cape Wind offshore wind farm in Cape Cod, Mass. The team consisted of Julia Barnes, Taylor Mikell, Julia Lyon, and Randy Baron. This article was primarily written and adapted for the Review by Ms. Barnes.

The case study is a lesson in what can happen when one loses control of the narrative surrounding a controversial project and fails to invest strategically in stewarding innovation through the gauntlet of implementation. This is what can happen when strategic messaging is undervalued – the first offshore wind farm in America stalled in 2015 and is considered dead.

Jim Gordon, a Boston entrepreneur who made his fortune in energy, conceived of the Cape Wind offshore wind farm as the next step in his mission to provide efficient and environmentally sound energy. After all, wind power had already proved successful in Europe and the technology was becoming more sophisticated every year. The cost of successful wind power generation in countries like Denmark and Germany was even as low as $.04 per KW hour. Gordon had also identified an attractive location – Horseshoe Shoal, off the coast of Hyannis Port, Mass. where a 130-turbine farm could theoretically make an extremely significant dent in the use of fossil fuel for residents of Cape Cod. With depth and wave conditions that made construction of these huge turbines feasible, Gordon was looking at an investment of over a billion dollars to see his dream of offshore wind energy come to life.

However, he faced a number of issues in executing the Cape Wind vision. First, Gordon immediately ran into extreme and well-funded opposition from rich property owners along the coast who did not want to see their ocean view marred by wind turbines. People from the Koch Brothers to Bunny Mellon to Walter Cronkite joined forces behind the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound (APNS): a NIMBY (not-in-my-backyard) group flush with cash and influence who set out to discredit Gordon and undercut the validity of the Cape Wind project. Second, Cape Wind faced prominent political opposition. The influence and connections of the APNS board members wreaked havoc for Cape Wind’s political standing and extensive lobbying efforts damaged the progress of what would have otherwise been a highly embraced endeavor. Finally, Cape Wind was an expensive undertaking – one whose fluctuations in cost had significant impact on its timeline.

Problem Analysis: Well-funded NIMBYism – The coast of Massachusetts along Nantucket Sound is home to many extremely wealthy and influential residents. Exhibit 8 shows the span of wealth that runs from Oyster Harbor to the Kennedy Compound in Hyannis. These multi million-dollar views would be impacted by the construction of Cape Wind. The obstruction was enough to have them form APNS and arm it with millions of dollars in funds, high-powered lobbying efforts, and a massive public relations campaign to discredit and destroy Cape Wind. As APNS alleged, Cape Wind would negatively impact commercial and recreational boating, impair fishing, harm tourism, kill bird populations and upset the Cape’s tax base with property value decline. While citing factually based evidence to the contrary, Gordon also answered these claims with impact studies and the support of Clean Power Now, a pro-wind, grassroots community group with pennies compared to APNS. APNS was skilled in enlisting Chambers of Commerce, town government, fishermen, lobstermen and boaters to their cause – a middle-class demographic that had little in common with the rich individuals behind the AstroTurf movement.

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Getting to Know the Class of 2018: Camille Fordy

Meet Camille Fordy ’18, (LinkedIn) who came to The Sustainable Innovation MBA from the Washington, D.C. law firm of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck where she worked in their government relations division. Prior to working at Brownstein, Camille worked on Capitol Hill as a legislative staff assistant to Sen. Patrick Leahy and  the Senate Judiciary Committee. This interview was conducted by Peyton White (LinkedIn), an undergraduate Business Administration major in UVM’s Grossman School of Business.

Why did you choose The Sustainable Innovation MBA?

I was MBA-bound for a while. I took the GMAT once and was exploring future options for MBA programs. I did lots of research on two-year programs, which I liked. I was going to push the application process out a year to continue studying for the GMAT, but instead I applied to The Sustainable Innovation MBA. I liked that the opportunity cost of attending The Sustainable Innovation MBA program was only one year and offered me a great change of network, too, away from my primary one in D.C.

“I liked that the opportunity cost of attending The Sustainable Innovation MBA program was only one year.”

What do you like about The Sustainable Innovation MBA?

I know a few individuals who were in previous cohorts. Their growth and experience in The Sustainable Innovation MBA program is inspiring and I really like the uniqueness of the program. I have heard before that “if you don’t go to a Top 10 school, an MBA isn’t worth it.” But after one month, I can say I disagree for many reasons. The program offers many interesting perspectives, classes are intellectually challenging, and we are provided with many opportunities to work in teams. I have found that the teamwork projects have been a great tool to self-assess how I work with others and improve upon my communication, project management, and problem solving skills for use in my future workplace. I have had the opportunity to develop relationships with new people and new personality types that I may never have met in my former workplace. Working in these diverse teams in a low-stakes atmosphere has given me the space to take risks and grow.

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