The Leaders We’re Looking For

By Joseph Fusco, Vice President, Casella Waste Systems, Inc., and Chair, SEMBA Advisory Board

You should know this about the company I work for: it is a mundane business. We are not superstars in the sustainability movement. Our name certainly wouldn’t escape from your lips should you be asked to name a fashionable triple bottom line company.

uvm-2016-0812-0167However, a few years ago, we had a moment of clarity. Suddenly, we realized our entire existence was based on a business model that was simply unsustainable.

We had to ask ourselves a very important question: what will the world — the planet, our markets, our customers, our communities — expect from us in twenty or thirty years? What will we get paid for?

You should know we came to this simple conclusion: we’ll get paid by helping to solve the problem of the world’s limited resources. At that moment, nearly everything changed — the way we hire, build, and treat people, the investments we make, the way we work with customers, the risks we embrace.

Simply put, all our problems are centered around resource limits — natural, environmental, people, time, capital, and so on. All of our opportunities — profit, growth, contributing to society, creating shareholder value — come from our ability to solve those problems better than anybody else. To do that we have to embrace sustainability. We have to become a different kind of company.

And that transformation calls for a different kind of leader.

So, here’s my insight: our mundane company will scratch and claw our way over other companies to hire people who are great at solving the problems of resource limits, and who embrace sustainability.

We need you. And there simply aren’t enough of you to go around.

We’re not alone — everyone’s problems have changed, everyone’s business model is being threatened. Every company, whether it likes it or not, and whether it knows it or not, faces the challenges of limited resources on every level.

Our company will scratch and claw our way over other companies to hire people who are great at solving the problems of resource limits, and who embrace sustainability.

Because of this new reality, there is a desperate need for leaders whose experience and education have uniquely prepared them to make products and services sustainable, and focus on the planet and people, as well as profit. There is a desperate need for leaders who think and act like entrepreneurs, who can creatively destroy outdated business structures, and innovate.
Unless you are this kind of leader, you are useless to us, and to more and more organizations.

In fact, I think it’s increasingly inevitable that we — and companies like ours — won’t hire anyone for a leadership position who doesn’t bring us two important qualities:

a genuine belief that “sustainability” extends to every corner of the enterprise, from the products and services we sell, to the way we manage limited natural, human, capital and social resources, to the way we liberate our people to love the work they do.

an education and set of skills that has prepared them to live differently, lead differently, profit differently.

The challenge for us will be to find these leaders, and to be confident they’ve been taught and nurtured in a program that builds expertise in all areas of sustainable entrepreneurship.

We’re confident that we’ll find them at the University of Vermont’s Sustainable Entrepreneurship MBA. You should be confident that SEMBA will offer you the education to be the kind of problem solver our company and many others will scratch and claw our way to hire.

Sustainable and socially responsible businesses know what we want, and what we need from our leaders. UVM’s SEMBA is one of the programs in the country that is building the type of leader we want. It’s is a tightly woven partnership between innovative companies and educators who share a passion to reinvent the way leaders and entrepreneurs are built for the long-haul, and who share a unique “DNA” for sustainability.

The business of the future — our business — demands exceptional students and business leaders who are able to master a different, more sustainable way to pursue profits, create value, and leave a significant economic, environmental and social impact.

Our business, and almost everyone else in business I know, is looking for people not content to do things they way they’ve always been done — who know there’s a better way to do business, to build companies and organizations, to build leaders.

We’re looking for people who think differently — and who are ready to embark on a business education that will prepare them to live differently, lead differently, profit differently.