Lessons We Can Learn From Resilient Businesses: Todos Supermarket

Resilience. Defined as “the act of springing back, or rebounding; the power or ability to recover quickly from a setback or other adversity; buoyancy; elasticity.”

In today’s global economy — in which policies and regulation, the financial landscape, the environment and so many other factors can drastically affect the operations and success of a business — organizations must be resilient in order to survive.

But what makes some businesses more resilient than others? And what are some successful traits and lessons shared by resilient companies, from which other organizations can draw?

This spring, the Darden School Institute for Business in Society hosted the 2015 Business and Economic Resilience Conference to explore these issues and to learn from Virginia businesses that have demonstrated resilience successfully. One such company is Todos Supermarket, a retail organization with stores in Woodbridge and Dumfries, Virginia.

Todos Supermarket   

“We became a center for information for our community, not only for groceries, and that gave us the strength to grow along with the community. We no longer cater only to the Latino community, but have expanded to become an entire neighborhood store in both locations.” — Carlos A. Castro, President, Todos Supermarket

As a grocer focused on providing foods that meet the needs of a primarily Hispanic customer base, the employees of Todos Supermarket found themselves in the midst of political unrest directed at its customers. In an area marked by Latino immigration, which has sparked a growing and often heated debate over the past decade, the Todos Supermarket leadership decided to stand up for its customers and community by getting involved in local civic activity. Todos employees actively participated in the debate about the Prince William County “Rule of Law” illegal immigration resolution and the 2008 directive that changed it.

This extended community debate was followed by the global economic downturn, which Todos Supermarket weathered well as they opened up a new 50,000 square-foot location, bolstered by the strong community support they had developed. “My constant and sincere participation brought us not only customer loyalty, but also employee support,” commented Carlos A. Castro, President of Todos Supermarket.

As part of their ongoing community outreach efforts, Todos Supermarket hosts adult education classes, English as a second language training, and also teaches employees to become engaged leaders in the community.

Carlos Castro Closeup at 2015 Bus & Econ Resilience Conference

Carlos A. Castro, President of Todos Supermarket, spoke as a panelist at the 2015 Business and Economic Resilience Conference hosted by the Institute for Business in Society at the UVA Darden School of Business.

Faculty Insight by Morela Hernandez

Todos Supermarket, in many ways, is a steward of the community it serves. Not only is Todos attentive to the dietary preferences of its customer base and in so doing, connect them to their cultural roots, but it also stands as an advocate for the needs and rights of its community stakeholders.

Paying particular attention to issues important to Latin Americans in the U.S., Todos is known for its commitment to development. Take, for example, its philosophy: “At Todos Supermarket, we believe that good people working toward a common goal may accomplish anything they set out to do”; this view represents their basic belief in people’s capacity to adapt, grow and flourish.

Having experienced firsthand the challenges of being an immigrant, with little to no resources, the founder Carlos Castro personifies this philosophy. For Todos, being a steward to the needs and interests of the community in which it exists encompasses not only a goal to provide great quality and service to its customers, but also thoughtfulness and effort toward its stakeholders’ struggles and accomplishments.

Morela Hernandez is an associate professor in the leadership and organizational Behavior area at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business. Her research is centered on ethical leadership and how cultural, racial and gender diversity impacts organizational decision-making.

To learn more about business resilience, read the full report, Ideas to Action Special Edition: Business and Economic Resilience; What Virginia Businesses Can Teach Us.

Leave a comment

Darden 2015 Business in Society Conference Highlights Public-Private Partnerships

The Darden School’s Business in Society Conference is an annual event that brings together a diverse audience of students, community members and business leaders to discuss the role of business in providing lasting value in an increasingly complex global society. This year’s conference theme is Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs), and we will explore how these initiatives are enhancing business relationships and improving communities worldwide.

Darden is pleased to welcome Andrew O’Brien, Special Representative for Global Partnerships in the U.S. Department of State Secretary’s Office of Global Partnerships, as the event’s keynote speaker. Additional conference sessions will address social impact bonds, the role of the international non-governmental organization (NGO), and PPPs as an opportunity to build the nation’s resiliency.

This event is organized and sponsored by the Net Impact Club, Emerging Markets Development Club, Energy Club, Education Club, Business & Public Policy Club, Healthcare Club, as well as Darden’s Institute for Business in Society and University of Virginia Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. For questions about the event, please contact Niti Kalra (KalraN15@darden.virginia.edu).

Register HERE for this free event! The full agenda and session details can be viewed below.

BiS Conference Flyer 2015


Comments Off on Darden 2015 Business in Society Conference Highlights Public-Private Partnerships

2015 Business and Economic Resilience Conference

2015 Business and Economic Resilience Conference
A day of education, problem-solving, networking and inspiration for small businesses

March 13, 2015
9am – 4pm
UVA Darden School of Business 

What makes some businesses able to overcome adversity better than others? And what sets resilient businesses apart – so they can not only survive, but thrive, after experiencing business challenges?

Join us and other business owners and leaders from around the Commonwealth as we explore these and other important lessons at the 2015 Business and Economic Resilience Conference. Learn from resilient Virginia businesses with proven track records of success, a distinguished group of faculty from the UVA Darden School and Washington & Lee University, as well as Congressman Robert Hurt, Representative for Virginia’s 5th District, who will discuss how government can be streamlined to encourage business and job growth.

While there is no charge to attend this conference, registration is required. Please use this link to RSVP.

We invite you to extend additional invitations to other colleagues or stakeholders who may benefit from these discussions.


Todos Supermarket

We hope you can join us for an invigorating day of interactive discussions, business education, problem-solving, shared best practices and valuable networking opportunities (see detailed agenda here: Agenda_2015 Business and Economic Resilience Conference). This event promises to be an energizing forum filled with helpful information that organizational leaders can implement immediately and use to build resilience within their own businesses.


Comments Off on 2015 Business and Economic Resilience Conference

Guest Post: Business Lessons from Behind Bars

Academic Director Gregory Fairchild recently presented a TEDxCharlottesville talk – The Questions that Got Me Into Prison.

Below is a related guest blog post from Tom Bandy, CEO of BandyWorks, winner of the 2010 University of Virginia Darden School Institute for Business in Society’s Tayloe Murphy Resilience Award. Bandy drew inspiration for this blog post by participating in leading a class session in the Dillwyn Correctional Center with Professor Fairchild.

Standing in the Sally port waiting to enter Dillwyn Correctional Institute on a clear spring afternoon, a cold reality of prison life encloses each instructor. The course they are about to lead is an experiment to prepare inmates for successful re-entry to society. Can convicted felons operate a successful business after they complete their sentence?

Mistakes and second chances

Mistakes are bad choices, actions or results. A good business plan will measure results, assess them and apply modifications to try to make things better. Hence a good plan assumes mistakes will happen and new methods be found to address them. Mistakes happen and learning results. Lessons learned create value when applied. Hence, mistakes create improvements when learning is applied.

Discussing Darden School ‘cases’ inside a prison provides a unique educational perspective. The intensity and reality of consequences and the importance of the learning are compelling. The outcome of this course literally means the difference of a free life or a return to prison. Here are a few lessons that have been learned by the inmates, this instructor argues they apply to all businesses:

#1 – Judging is not as important as learning

Every felon attending the course is a real person with real dreams and disappointments. Many people will privately discuss egregious mistakes that have been made by themselves, friends or other family members. Not many people live into their adult lives without having made serious mistakes in judgment, action or inaction. While not everyone has the same level of mistakes and associated consequences, it seems fair to think past mistakes do not define the totality of one’s character and value.

In business, those leaders that take on problems and find a way to fix or better resolve situations are deemed successful. It seems only fair that once the cost of a mistake has been addressed, then looking forward with a new understanding may be considered a success as well. While the assumption of felons repaying the costs of a mistake is challenging, the justification corresponds to normal business practice. These felons have been judged by the courts and are paying a debt via their prison sentence. How many successful businesses have been created without overcoming a lot of mistakes?

#2 – Second chances must be both earned and provided

While blind faith that convicted felons will not repeat their past mistakes is not a practical approach, there are huge economic reasons to want felons to return to society. There must be additional rules and checks in place until trust has been established. Who better than someone that has given up years of freedom to understand the value of a second chance? Those genuinely desirous of a fresh start are willing to earn trust and pay their dues. Herein lays the opportunity to apply business lessons to the approach to return of felons to society.

Great businesses provide clear responsibilities, process and accountability. Great leaders do not describe the explicit definition of rules, responsibilities and goals as extra work but rather necessary work. These same companies do not fire someone for a single mistake, but carefully hold them accountable for mistakes with a sincere expectation for the proper behavior to be delivered going forward. Perhaps, with time and experience, a set of reasonable rules can be applied that balance cost of second chances for felons.

#3 – What goes around comes around

The obvious point here is that felons made bad choices and incarceration resulted. Another point, though less obvious, is that second chances are valuable for both the giver and the recipient. Offering someone that has failed badly a chance to earn respect and honor from their own effort is an enormous gift. The interesting point of those involved with the prison program, however, is that the instructors often discuss how much they receive rather than how much they have given.

This lesson also applies directly to business. Applying accountability with a staff member demonstrates that their work is important and provides the encouragement of high expectations. Tracking results and teaching the lessons of mistakes leads to staff ownership and productivity – a gift that will return many times to an owner.

#4 – Prioritize well and choose accordingly

Prison accountability is much more severe than that of its business counterpart. Small business people face challenges of time with their family, for themselves and face intense financial risks. Inmates lose access to their family almost entirely, cannot support them and face intense humiliation. The cost of their choices is severe and long lasting. The value of priorities and discipline is illuminated when the harsh consequences of bad priorities and lack of discipline are encountered in a prison.

Such a ‘case’ makes a great lesson for any entrepreneur. Choices have consequences and actions must be prioritized to use those that yield the best results. Every business has more tasks than time. The need to make the right choices and use time well is an important key to success. There is an intense pressure to execute at a high level. Such pressure can lead to fatigue, bad choices and over-analysis. The inevitability of mistakes and the ability to learn and earn a second chance paradoxically frees one to move forward with less stress and more confidence. Do your best, learn from your mistakes, forgive yourself and go make things better.

As the last sally port gate opens the instructors pick up their phones and keys and head home in the now cold dark night. The emails, voice message and texts have queued up during the class. While the answer to second chances for felons is yet to be known, at least one instructor knows that he has learned lessons and will use his second chance tomorrow to apply those lessons to his reset priorities.

This post originally appeared as Accountability Lessons from Prison at http://bandyworks.com/accountability-lessons-from-prison/


Comments Off on Guest Post: Business Lessons from Behind Bars

Spent Documentary Screening and Panel Discussion on Financial Service Inclusion

Guest Post By Lauren Lehman, U.Va. Class of 2015

The Institute for Business in Society (IBiS) and the Net Impact club at Darden are co-hosting a screening of the documentary Spent: Looking for Change at 6pm on November 9 at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, as part of the Virginia Film Festival. The event consists of viewing the 40-minute documentary and a panel to discuss problems and possible solutions articulated in the film.

The documentary addresses the need to expand financial inclusion throughout the country by finding new, alternative methods to manage money more affordably. Many Americans do not have access to the financial tools utilized by many and instead rely on institutions such as pawn shops and payday loans, which become extremely costly due to high interest rates and fees. “It is important to engage in a dialogue around this growing problem in order to inspire action and change of the current system,” commented Lisa Stewart, Director of the Institute for Business in Society. The film suggests possible solutions by highlighting the need for education and the development of new technologies to meet the needs of the financially underserved.

Following Sunday night’s screening, an expert panel will explore alternatives to better address the concerns raised in the film. The panel will be moderated by Darden faculty member Professor R. Edward Freeman, and panelists include Sohrab Kohli, special projects associate, Innovation Labs, Center for Financial Innovation, R. Jerry Nemorin, founder & CEO of Lend Street Financial, Inc., and Wesley Wright, senior vice president, Enterprise Growth, American Express. A podcast version of the panel conversation will be released following the event.


Panelists at the U.S. Department of Treasury discuss the lack of financial tools accessible to some Americans. Treasury Photo by Chris E. Taylor.

Spent: Looking for Change was also screened at the U.S. Department of Treasury on September 19, and the Department held a panel to facilitate discussion and brainstorm solutions of this issue on a broader, national level. Professor Greg Fairchild participated on that panel, which has been archived and can be viewed online here.

To follow or join the conversation on Twitter, use the hashtags #Spent and #LookingForChange. For additional infomation, read the press release here.


Comments Off on Spent Documentary Screening and Panel Discussion on Financial Service Inclusion

Guest Post: Scandinavia and US Business: Is Mutual Imitation a Good Idea?

By Robert Strand

I am an American and I began my career as an industrial engineer with IBM in the U.S., but I have spent the better part of the past decade in Scandinavia studying that region’s approach to sustainability and corporate social responsibility – first as a Fulbright Scholar, then as a Ph.D. student, and finally as a business school professor.

I was drawn to Scandinavia by that region’s remarkable balance of strong economic, environmental, and social performances. I wanted to understand what role business had in this.

As I once again take up residency in the U.S., now as Executive Director of the Berkeley-Haas Center for Responsible Business, I am struck by how these two very different business cultures are absorbing each other’s ideas.

For the United States, this is clearly a good thing. For Scandinavia, I am not so sure.
On this side of the Atlantic, business priorities have traditionally been dominated by a hyper-competitive drive to dominate, trumpet success, and maximize profits. On the other side, we have what I call the “Scandinavian Cooperative Advantage” — a quiet but pervasive commitment to shared social and environmental values. Business in Scandinavia is grounded on cooperation between stakeholders and on a conviction that corporations have obligations to deliver more than shareholder returns.

The US and Scandinavia also differ on “talking the talk” versus “walking the walk.” American companies instinctively trumpet any good deeds, and the phrase “corporate social responsibility” found an early home in the United States. But Scandinavian corporations have been decades ahead when it came to actually practicing what we now call “CSR.”

It was a Scandinavian scholar, Eric Rhenman, who first formally defined the term “stakeholder” in management literature nearly a half-century ago to crystallize what Scandinavian companies were already doing: engaging with employees, customers and the broader community, and taking their interests into consideration. Today, Scandinavian business is at the top of international performance rankings on social responsibility and sustainability.

Yet now we are at a curious twist in the story. Michael Porter of Harvard, arguably the world’s most influential strategic management scholar and the man who has effectively taught millions of students that business is war, has become the champion of “creating shared value.” He now warns that American companies will jeopardize their own futures if they don’t embrace their broader responsibilities to all stakeholders.

“Businesses cannot thrive for long while their communities languish,” wrote Porter and Jan Rivkin in a new report entitled “An Economy Doing Half Its Job.” “(I)n the long run, American business will suffer from an inadequate workforce, a population of depleted consumers, and large blocs of anti-business voters.”

Sounds almost Scandinavian, doesn’t it? And in truth, as I have documented at some length with Professor Ed Freeman of Darden School of Business, “creating shared value” is essentially a repackaging of Eric Rhenman’s Scandinavian-based view that the firm exists to serve  its stakeholders. Said another way, corporations exist to serve the needs of society, not the other way around. Moreover, given the needs of society represent business opportunities, corporations are far more successful when the people within them embrace this ideal.

To the extent that Michael Porter accelerates this long-overdue conversation, the United States will be better off.
Meanwhile, Scandinavians are absorbing American-based ideas. In a major trend, Scandinavian governments have increasingly adopted an increasingly laissez-faire approach to social challenges. It might not seem like unfettered free-enterprise to American eyes, but Sweden, Denmark and other Nordic nations are slowly moving away from direct government regulation by encouraging more corporate social responsibility. In effect, they are shifting from official and public channels to private and more market-based channels to address complex social challenges. It is a form of de-regulation.

In parallel, Scandinavians are increasingly using imported American business jargon like “Corporate Social Responsibility” and more recently “Creating Shared Value.”

This isn’t just a matter of words. Traditionally, Scandinavian companies simply engaged in corporate social responsibility without attaching a special name to it. Scandinavians tend to frown on grand-standing about good deeds as humility is a cherished quality in the Scandinavian context. Most companies practiced “implicit CSR” without explicitly calling it “CSR” because Scandinavians assumed that social responsibility was a normal part of business. Why would a corporation and its employees NOT be responsible to their stakeholders?

Unfortunately, I am not sure this Americanization of Scandinavia is a good thing. There is already some concern in Scandinavia about popular resentment – both about importing American jargon and about corporate grand-standing – as this is fundamentally not Scandinavian. My deeper concern is that the Scandinavian business will become fixated on achieving a “competitive advantage” without realizing that their true advantage lies in their ability to cooperate. This cooperation benefits Scandinavian corporations and their stakeholders – it is “shared value,” as Porter now calls it.

Scandinavia has a “cooperative advantage,” and I hope they don’t lose it.

Fortunately, we can prevent that from happening by encouraging these important conversations on both sides. Americans should question the traditional narrative that business is fundamentally about competition, and they should recognize the lessons from Scandinavia about combining strong economic performance with strong social responsibility and environmental sustainability.

And Scandinavians? They should recognize what a special thing they have and not discard it in a dash to become more American.

Learn more in: Strand, R., Freeman, R.E. & Hockerts, K. (2015). “Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability in Scandinavia.” Journal of Business Ethics. 127.1


Robert Strand is Executive Director of the Center for Responsible Business at the University of California Berkeley Haas School of Business. Follow him on Twitter @robertgstrand.

Comments Off on Guest Post: Scandinavia and US Business: Is Mutual Imitation a Good Idea?

P3 Impact Award Finalists Announced

The Institute for Business in Society, Concordia, and the U.S. Department of State Secretary’s Office of Global Partnerships are thrilled to announce the finalists for the P3 Impact Award! We look forward to announcing the winner at this year’s Concordia Summit on September 29th in New York City.

The P3 Impact Award was created to recognize public-private partnerships (P3s) that are improving communities and the world in the most impactful ways. The award seeks to highlight best practices and actionable insights in the P3 arena.

2014 P3 Impact Award Finalists:

African Diaspora Marketplace


P3 Impact Award Finalist

Today, more than 62 million Americans – a full fifth of the nation – are either first or second generation diasporas. Diasporans play a critical role in contributing to their countries of origin by sending remittances to family and friends. However, diasporans have the potential to contribute even more substantially to a country of origin’s well-being through entrepreneurship and investment. Recognizing the important role that diasporans play as powerful actors in foreign assistance, the U.S. Agency for international Development (USAID), Western Union, and Western Union Foundation partnered to launch the African Diaspora Marketplace (ADM). Originally started as a business plan competition, ADM now offers a comprehensive package of services including: seed capital, technical assistance, market linkages, and access to finance. ADM is now in its third iteration and has served as a model for similar programs in Latin America and the Caribbean. Since 2009, the partnership has assisted 34 diaspora ventures with $2.25 million in seed capital. ADM has become a catalyst to attract nearly $2 million in additional equity capital to help grow these diaspora ventures to the next level of scale and impact.

CocoaLink: Connecting Cocoa Communities

internetCocoaLink logo

P3 Impact Award Finalist

Cocoa villages in West Africa are often isolated and it is difficult for farmers to access information on good agricultural practices. To address this issue The Hershey Company, the Ghana Cocoa Board, and the World Cocoa Foundation partnered to launch CocoaLink. CocoaLink connects cocoa farmers to government agriculture experts and the latest information on modern farming techniques through a two-way mobile phone exchange. Farmers use text and voice messages to receive information and ask questions about farming conditions and practices. The widespread use of mobile phones makes CocoaLink an economical and easy-to-use platform. To date, there are more than 45,000 registered CocoaLink users in 1,800 communities. Compared to non-CocoaLink farmers, on average, CocoaLink users experience a 45% yield improvement and a 70% income increase. Partners will use insights from the Ghana CocoaLink program to extend the program to other cocoa-growing countries in West Africa.

Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves


P3 Impact Award Finalist

Exposure to smoke from traditional cookstoves and open fires – the primary means of cooking and heating for nearly three billion people in the developing world – causes 4.3 million premature deaths every year, with women and young children the most affected. This issue called Household Air Pollution is now the 4th biggest health risk in the world. The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (Alliance) and its 1,000 partners in the business, civil society, NGO, philanthropic, United Nations, and humanitarian sectors, along with 45 national governments, are working globally to address the devastating health, environmental, gender, and climate effects associated with the use of unsafe cookstoves and reliance on biomass fuels by building a thriving and sustainable market of clean cooking solutions. In just three years, this innovative partnership has successfully helped to spur the growth of 1.6 million clean and efficient stoves in the market to 8.4 million stoves, a crucial milestone in the Alliance’s goal to enable 100 million households to adopt clean cookstove and fuels by 2020.

The Coca-Cola Company & World Wildlife Fund Global Freshwater Partnership

WWF-TCCC water logo

P3 Impact Award Finalist

While water covers 70 percent of the planet, less than 1 percent of the world’s fresh water is accessible for people and nature. By 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population may face water shortages, jeopardizing the health of ecosystems around the globe. Because water is essential to nature, communities, and business, the World Wildlife Fund and The Coca-Cola Company launched a transformational partnership in 2007 to help protect and conserve the world’s freshwater resources. The partnership focuses on measurably improving environmental performance across the Company’s value chain, and also works to ensure healthy, resilient freshwater basins in 11 key regions. Since 2004, the Coca-Cola system has improved water efficiency by 21.4 percent and has reduced emissions by 6 percent. The partnership has also seen major conservation gains in river basins around the world, including helping to establish a freshwater reserve in East Africa and a new policy statute in Vietnam.

Wireless Access for Health Initiative

WAH Logo

P3 Impact Award Finalist

While responsible for managing and delivering healthcare, local government units in the Philippines lack the funding and technical capacity to manage patients. A cumbersome manual system results in lost records and time and compounds already poor health-seeking behavior of patients. A partnership between the Provincial Government of Tarlac and various other stakeholders, including USAID and Qualcomm Incorporated, the Wireless Access for Health Initiative (WAH) is a customizable, open-source electronic health record system. The system enables easy health data validation, patient SMS alerts, mobile modules, a statistics aggregator, and an electronic reporting mechanism. WAH has improved various aspects of the health system in Tarlac, including increased accuracy of health records, 60 percent reduction in wait times, and increased number of preventative visits. WAH is now functioning in 68 clinics in 14 provinces and serves more than 2,500 patients per day.


Comments Off on P3 Impact Award Finalists Announced

Guest Blog: Why the National Debt Defines the Future for Millennials

Guest post by Elizabeth Brightwell, University of Virginia Class of 2013, Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy

national debt project
Participating in a year-long, trailblazing course on the national debt was the capstone of my academic career. Our professor, Renaissance woman Mary Margaret Frank, gathered a class of students from across many academic disciplines at UVA including law, business, nursing, engineering, public policy, and public health. Over the course of an entire academic year, we studied and gathered together to share our points of view on the national debt and its effect on issues of deep concern to all of us.

In our classroom, the perspectives and experiences varied but we all share a passion for and an interest in the national debt. As a student in the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, I learned from my fellow students, and I hope they learned from me. For example, as an idealistic, public policy student, I often overlook the bottom-line; “I don’t care how much it costs—it is the right thing to do!” My classmates studying business stressed the necessity of considering the costs. Their advice is well-founded; if you mishandle your budget, everyone loses in the long run. The diversity of our classroom broadened my limited perspective and enhanced the group, as a whole.

For many of my classmates, the national debt course was one of our last experiences in academia. Many of us have already started our new jobs, embracing the challenges of the “real world.” For some, this transition was not entirely welcome; luckily, our work for the National Debt class is not over.

The final product of our course was a short video intended to educate and engage our generation on the national debt. Many millennials ignore the national debt despite the great impact it can have on our lives. Will Social Security be available when we reach an eligible age? Should we sacrifice funding research for future innovation in order to cover our increasing health care expenditures? Our class distilled all that we had learned throughout the year into one, ten-minute video.

educated about the debt

Screen shot from National Debt video

The video has already gathered some momentum and we are working to propel it into the cyber sphere. We hope that as our video reaches a wider community, including people of all ages, we can grow the conversation that my classmates and I continued throughout the year. I was sad to walk down the Lawn in May after my wonderful years as a Wahoo and the engaging discussions with classmates and professors. Because of my desire to keep the momentum going, I jumped at the opportunity to become the Social Media Campaign Manager for the National Debt project. I look forward to continuing our class’ efforts and working to get our video in front of as many eyes as possible; I hope your eyes will be next.

Watch the video here: Why the National Debt Defines the Future for Millennials

Learn more about The National Debt Project on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/nationaldebtproject) and on Twitter (https://twitter.com/NatlDebt_WeCare).  


Comments Off on Guest Blog: Why the National Debt Defines the Future for Millennials

Sustainability Centres Collaborate for Greater Impact

By Erika Herz, Associate Director of Sustainability Programs

2014 Sustainability Centers Workshop

2014 Sustainability Centers Workshop

Sustainability Centers, Institutes and Initiatives (“centers”) are an important nexus between academia, corporations, government and NGOs working to solve sustainability challenges. Thus, center directors have a unique perspective on how to achieve impact, which is one reason why the Business and Environment Initiative at Harvard Business School  (HBS BEI) and the Network for Business Sustainability (NBS) organized this terrific workshop I attended in June. I represented two organizations, Darden’s Institute for Business in Society and the Alliance for Research on Corporate Sustainability (ARCS), a consortium of 19 universities advancing corporate sustainability research.

Who would have thought that a workshop for sustainability center staff and faculty would be quickly oversubscribed? But that is what happened. Clearly there is a need for those in this role to share best practices. 60 of us convened in an HBS classroom for a series of roll-up-your-sleeves sessions on how to further integrate sustainability and social impact topics into our respective business school offerings.

We tackled the areas below, which give you a sense of what centers do. For each we identified: 1) Key questions and challenges; and 2) Best practices and good ideas.


1. Teaching and Curriculum

  • How do we best integrate sustainability as a critical business lens into the MBA curriculum in required and elective courses, as well as Executive Education?
  • What are best practices for experiential curriculum, field projects, and cases developed with companies?

(For Darden, see a recent article on global field projects for sustainability here, and a recent piece on a sustainability case we wrote with Walmart here.)

2. Research

  • What are the trends in business sustainability over the next 10-15 years?
  • How do we develop a long-term research strategy and robust faculty network for sustainability research, focused on our schools’ respective strengths?

3. Outreach

  • How do we get research into the hands of business leaders who can put these learnings into practice?
  • How do we connect students interested in sustainability and social impact with the appropriate companies for internships and jobs?

4. Center Strategy and Operations

  • How do we successfully fund and effectively operate sustainability centers to leverage existing intellectual capital and corporate relationships?
  • How do we effectively partner with, and serve our alumni?

2014 Sustainability Centres Workshop at HBS

I especially liked the “Collaboration Open Mic,” an innovative format in the workshop which allowed us to suggest topics real-time, gather with a group of interested colleagues, and develop a set of recommendations and goals. My group began sharing our schools’ lists of sustainability topics that we thought all students should learn. We considered the viability of business school accreditors such as the AACSB including sustainability competencies in their evaluations of MBA programs.

A corporate perspective was also present in the workshop, with representatives from 3M, BASF, Mahindra Sanyo Special Steel and TD Bank discussing What Corporations Need from Business Schools – And What They Can Offer. HBS Professor Michael Toffel (@MikeToffel), winner of the 2014 ARCS Sustainability Scholar Award, facilitated.

Overall, the big question we all had was: how do we prioritize our activities, especially when students regularly bring interesting new ones to our attention.

We discussed that activities should fit the following criteria:

    • Have a positive impact on tackling global issues like poverty and climate change
    • Align with our school and center’s missions
    • Inspire a critical mass of our faculty to engage
    • Be able to be funded.

Thank you NBS and HBS BEI for giving the sustainability center community a chance to collaborate and enjoy each other’s company. Check out the  NBS website later this month for a report on all that we discussed in case it is helpful to your work.

1 Comment

The Business of Global Water Management in an Era of Climate Change

By Allison Elias, Research Associate, Institute for Business in Society (IBiS) and Erika Herz, Associate Director of Sustainability Programs

On Friday, March 21st, organizations from across the University Grounds came together in the Rotunda’s elegant Dome Room to host the U.Va. World Water Day Symposium, in honor of the United Nations’ holiday, which has been observed on March 22nd since 1993. The UN-declared theme for 2014, water and energy, sought to bring attention to the interdependence of the two resources and to shed light on new strategies for using water and energy in efficient ways.

According to Darden Professor Peter Debaere, who co-organized the event along with colleagues from U.Va.’s Center for Global Health, the Department of Environmental Sciences, the Division of Infectious Diseases and International Health,  as well as The Nature Conservancy:

“Public understanding of the policy and business implications of water and energy challenges is lacking. We hope this interdisciplinary conference helped educate all of us on root causes, as well as about frameworks for innovative business and government solutions.”

Debaere also teaches a popular MBA elective called “The Global Economics of Water.”

In keeping with the 2014 theme, keynote speaker Jamie Pittock, Senior Lecturer at Australian National University, spoke about sustaining water in an era of climate change and population growth. Pittock’s research led to many insights including:

  • Solutions may appear to be attractive but we must consider the long-term, less overt environmental and economic costs
  • Policy reform is most likely to happen in times of crisis and/or leadership change; reformers must use these moments to their benefit
  • Academic research must become more relevant to decision makers given the uncertain environment

His rich discussion addressed ways that governments and businesses could remain adaptable and find complementary solutions to meet a variety of stakeholder needs given the changing nature of water and energy problems.

A second panel discussion focused on water markets, whereby water use rights are traded through either short- or long-term contracts. Water markets encourage conservation behavior as well as a more accurate valuation of water resources. The state of California, for example, has a water grid infrastructure that facilitates movement of water and enables trading activities. Water trading is helpful for short-term needs, as apparent in Colorado recently when ash from fires contaminated municipal water sources. Due to an already-robust trading scheme, fresh mountain water suitable for drinking was able to be exchanged for the contaminated water, which was used instead for agricultural purposes. Panelists also discussed that natural gas mining through the method of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) has driven up the price of water due to the water quantity needed for the process. Water contamination caused by fracking is also a significant issue.

The last panel session of the day concentrated on the health impacts of poor water access using South Africa as a case study. Although improvements have been made, still over 2000 children die per day of diarrheal illness, which often is caused by contaminated water. The speakers looked beyond health to the economic and educational consequences of clean water access. Children who survive such illnesses have to contend with problems such as stunted growth, lower IQ levels, or chronic internal diseases. These cognitive and physical impairments have furthered the cycle of poverty that leaves many children without opportunities to improve their quality of life. One panelist called the issues of inadequate water supply and contaminated water the ‘silent humanitarian crisis’ because public and private resources are often devoted to other crises that are more concentrated in a single location.

The symposium closed with a note of optimism: these problem are solvable if resources are allocated in the most efficient manner. However, public attention, cross-sector alliances, and interdisciplinary research collaborations are necessary to move toward lasting solutions.

The UVA World Water Day Symposium was supported with funding from Darden’s Institute for Business in Society (IBiS) U.Va.’s Office of the Vice President for Research, and other U.Va. departments. To hear interviews with speakers, listen to the Darden GreenPod #27 and the Darden BusinessCast #279.

Comments Off on The Business of Global Water Management in an Era of Climate Change