The first annual Net Impact Sustainability Summit was held on Friday, February 11th at the Iowa Memorial Union, and it was a fun, collaborative day! Approximately 180 attendees were present, which included MBA students, faculty and staff, undergraduate business students, graduate students from other colleges, and business leaders from the community.
The topic for the Summit was Beyond Reduce, Reuse & Recycle. In other words, we did not want to dwell on the well-known basic topics of sustainability, but rather wanted to give the attendees an interactive discussion on why sustainability makes good business sense.
The Summit opened with remarks by outgoing president Jeremie Yoder, and then incoming president Jon Finley. This Summit is unique from the other MBA Academy Forums (held by the Strategic Innovation, Marketing, and Finance Academies), in that due to the timing of the Summit (in February), both the outgoing and incoming presidents and vice presidents were heavily involved with the planning of the event. This point will be helpful in planning next year’s Summit, as the current president and vice president already have one under their belt!
Opening remarks were given by Dean Curt Hunter, who spoke to the topic of business innovations in the name of sustainability, and gave some great examples from his interaction with Xerox. We then continued with our three speakers: Professor Craig Just from the University of Iowa, Cheryl Davenport from the consulting firm Mission Measurement, and Laurie Zelnio from John Deere. The three speakers did a great job of building discussion on the previous speaker’s points. Craig opened with the thought of “What is sustainability?” and gave the group a birds-eye view of the topic. Cheryl then spoke to the idea of how sustainability makes good business sense, and gave numerous examples of her Fortune 500 clients who are doing very big things on the sustainability front. Finally, Liz Christiansen, the head of the University of Iowa Office of Sustainability, introduced Laurie, who capped it off with the day-to-day application of sustainable practices at John Deere, and how these practices both make and save the company money. One great aspect of each speaker is that they had time within their presentations to engage the audience. Each speaker had about ten minutes of breakout time, where each table then discussed the topic at hand. These interactive sessions proved to keep the audience engaged throughout the morning.
Incoming vice president David Wylie then introduced Colleen Downie-Galindo, the Assistant Dean of the MBA programs. Colleen gave a wonderful talk, taking the points of sustainability in the business world, and applying those concepts to the MBA program. Colleen then introduced President Sally Mason, who gave closing remarks to the audience, touching on how sustainable practices are part of the every-day life of the University of Iowa.
This proved to be a very large and successful event, and the current student officers are already busy planning for next year!