Smith School of Business

The posts on this page are contributed by students from the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business in conjunction with the newly launched Center for Social Value Creation. The center's mission is to develop leaders with a deep sense of individual responsibility and the knowledge to use business as a vehicle for social change. These posts are a way to continue the dialogue outside of the classroom and share the viewpoints of Smith students on the challenges and opportunities of triple bottom line thinking.

Recent Articles

Using Consumer Insights to Thin America and Fatten the Bottom Line

| Monday April 11th, 2011 | 0 Comments

This post is part of a series on sustainability in the health and wellness industry, curated by Becky Eisen, Dana Ledyard, Izabel Loinaz. Follow along with the series here.
By Stephen Huie

Just because the growth rate of American obesity has slowed down to reach 34% of the adult population from 30% ten years ago, there isn’t any reason to begin letting loose again.  Obesity may be plateauing for adults, but the number of obese children tripled to 17% over the same time period (CDC – 2010).

Food producers have been watching these “mega” trends in obesity and their counterpoint, health and wellness, for many years now.  Food companies recognize that their customers’ bodies are changing and that buyers are responding by modifying what they choose to buy and eat.

But, how do you design and market healthier food products to a mass audience, especially when you’ve been producing products high in sugars, sodium, and fats for so long?

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Taking the Entrepreneurial Plunge: Stories from the Social Venture Field

| Thursday April 7th, 2011 | 1 Comment

By Sara Herald
One of the sessions at the Social Enterprise Symposium held at the University of Maryland last Thursday featured tales and advice from four social entrepreneurs: Janessa Goldbeck from STANDnow, Steve Ma from Live Green Inc., Josh Nesbit from Medic Mobile, and Robyn Nietert from the Women’s Microfinance Initiative.  What do these individuals working on the front lines to solve a variety of social problems have to say about the future of social entrepreneurship? That the world needs fewer generalists and more specialists who can tackle specific ills.  What does that mean for the group of eager college and graduate students in attendance? Pick an area of interest to study and then focus on how the skills learned can address social problems.

That theme echoed throughout the Net Impact National Conference back in October, and it was really interesting to hear it repeated by people who have started successful businesses, both non- and for-profit.  Echoing Green fellow Nesbit was pre-med at Stanford and became fascinated with mobile health and its implications in rural Africa while studying in Malawi.  What kind of people is he looking to hire for Medic Mobile? Those with technical skills in software development and healthcare.  It’s important to be passionate about the organization’s mission and a proven commitment to rural healthcare, but bottom line is that passion alone isn’t going to get you a job.

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Find a Career that Gives You Passion in Six Easy Steps

| Thursday April 7th, 2011 | 1 Comment

By Zachary Olson

Everyone’s been lured into those seminars that are supposed to teach you THE SECRET to something, like finding happiness and blah blah blah, but then you end up just wanting to leave as soon as possible because they’re telling you things that seem like just common sense. But then sometimes, if you’re lucky, the speaker asks you to actually do one of their exercises, and your ego completely deflates as you realize you’re not actually doing these simple things.  I had one of those moments in Dr. Mrim Boutla’s session about choosing a socially conscious career at the 2011 Social Enterprise Symposium. This is basically how the session started:

“Align your career with your passions!” Really? I should choose a job that I like doing? What a mind-blowing concept. 47 minutes left until I can leave and get some free food.

“Write down your top 6 passions.” I like my job, thanks. …If I were to do it, though (which I’m not), I guess I’d list things like web design and development and something to do with economic development or education and something about being outside and travel… None of which I get from my new internship (queue animation of ego shriveling up into a prune).

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What Makes A (Social) Entrepreneur?

| Tuesday April 5th, 2011 | 0 Comments

By Mike Levitsky

Simply seeing the panel “Social Entrepreneurs: Stories from the Field” at the UMDs Social Enterprise Symposium recently, has shown me that entrepreneurs come in all shapes and forms. A diverse panel allowed for different perspectives and experiences, each with unique contributions to what social entrepreneurship really means in our society. But, whether fighting against genocide in Africa, making green living the norm, helping women find financial help when no one else would, or bringing a new technology to become the standard in healthcare, these entrepreneurs have presented several traits and tidbits they feel are necessary for “entrepreneurial” success:

  • Audacity is great. Don’t be afraid to go big early.
  • Always go where you will have the most impact
  • Passion makes up where skills lack
  • A great TEAM is essential to success
  • Be idealistic!
  • “I got a great idea….now tell me what’s wrong with it”
  • You don’t need anyone’s permission to do what you want to do
  • Failing is good
  • Entrepreneurship should be learned late in life! only after technical skills are learned should entrepreneurship be studied, so that these skills can be applied in new ways.

So…

It seems this “social entrepreneur” needs to be risky, goal oriented, passionate, idealistic, and rebellious. They need to have the ability to surround themselves with a good team of critics that won’t hold back, and to be able to accept failure time and time again.

Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like I’ve heard this before….in any business class that has tried to define entrepreneurship.  So what is it that makes these people SOCIAL entrepreneurs?

Nothing, except changing times and trends.

The social conscious-ness of society of changing. We have more than we’ve ever had before. Resources, responsibilities, relationships. For one reason or another, we care more about how our actions impact the earth, others, and ourselves. The trend is impossible to ignore. More companies are claiming to be “socially responsible” through CSR programs to try to strap you to their bandwagon. We can even try to connect this trend to the growing needs of Gen Y’s in the corporate workplace. Simply put, times are changing.

Our generation can make a difference (realism has been replaced by idealism.) In a society experiencing innovation at rates never seen before, with technology making tasks and actions more efficient, while resources become more readily available, the new class of entrepreneurs has shifted its focus towards widespread impact. This, combined with the increased interconnectedness of people around the world due to the growing popularity of social media has allowed for MOST entrepreneurial ventures to be “social.”

No longer is the goal to create some new invention or gadget for its use or functionality. The new goal is to create something that will change markets, change the availability of resources, change how people live.

So join me in making the world a greener place. Save some paper, and lets simply call it “entrepreneurship,” whether it’s social…or it’s social.

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Calling All Female Would-Be Entrepreneurs

| Tuesday April 5th, 2011 | 5 Comments

By Sara Herald

Although rates of entrepreneurship among women in the United States have been growing steadily, 60% of new businesses are still founded by men.  However, if Natalia Oberti Noguera, Julie Lenzer Kirk, and Amy Millman have their way, that percentage will decrease significantly in the coming years.  These three women, all entrepreneurs themselves, have made careers of helping other women start and grow businesses.

Oberti Noguera founded the Pipeline Fund, “a social venture fund that invests in women-led for-profit social ventures and trains women to become angel investors.”  She’s passionate about gender equality in the business world, and she wants all aspiring female entrepreneurs to know that “it’s okay to fail, because each failure is just a step closer to success.”  

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Bank of America Knows Money Isn’t the Only Green That Matters

| Thursday November 4th, 2010 | 0 Comments

The Bank of America Tower

By Taylor Muckerman

This past week, I ventured to New York City with some fellow finance MBA’s from the Smith School to visit with some alumni at their respective jobs.  The final day of our trek included a visit to the new Bank of America Tower on the Avenue of the Americas.  Our visit here turned out to be more than just a Q & A with an alumn.  After our lunch and informational interview session with a Managing Director of the Global Wealth Management division, we were treated to a virtual tour of this grand facility designed by Cook+Fox.

The new building, which opened in 2008, has received LEED Platinum certification. The Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) rating system aims to identify the best practices, materials, and systems for environmentally friendly buildings.  This rating is well warranted due to the vast array of eco-friendly features this skyscraper houses:

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Net Impact Conference 2010: Reconciling Ideals with Reality

| Wednesday November 3rd, 2010 | 0 Comments

Source: www.netimpact.org

By Sara Herald

This past week I attended the Net Impact Annual conference at the magnificent Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. The conference mission is lofty: “to inspire, educate, and equip individuals to use the power of business to create a more socially and environmentally sustainable world,” but what makes the organization stand out is the practicality demonstrated while trying to achieve that mission.

The balance the organization strikes between ideals and reality is most evident in the food provided at the conference.  Much of the food was organic, but not all.  Some of the items were local, such as apples from nearby farms, but much of it was not.  All the packaging in the box lunches was compostable, but coffee and tea were served in disposable cups.  Conference organizers recognize that attendees care about where their food comes from and the waste the conference generates, but convenience is essential.  Just as consumer product goods manufacturers have recognized that a growing sector of consumers care about the environmental effects of the products they purchase, but only after functionality is accounted for.  Few people are going to buy dish detergent that doesn’t work, as “green” as it may be, because dirty dishes don’t appeal to anyone.  In that same vein, few people are going to attend a conference without food, or God forbid, coffee.

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The NFL’s Lip Service to Safety

| Thursday October 28th, 2010 | 2 Comments

An Eagles player turns himself into a missile

By David Croushore

This week, the NFL finally made a reasonable gesture with respect to player safety.  However, the crackdown on brutal hits is only a good start in the fight for player safety that must continue.

As Greg Easterbrook of ESPN is quick to point out, the NFL must make efforts to promote the safety of its players, not simply for the players’ sake, but for the sake of the majority of football players, high school and college athletes who will never make a dime from athletics.  These young players stand to lose much more in the event of an injury than they can ever gain.  Head and neck injuries are particularly dangerous for young athletes, as concussions have been shown to cause more long term harm when sustained before the brain has fully developed.

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Does America’s Public School System Need a Superman?

| Monday October 11th, 2010 | 2 Comments

By: David Croushore

In high school, I graduated with a GPA of 5.8 on a 4.0 scale.  That mark was good enough to be 23rd in my class.  The reason for this bizarre, up-side-down score and rank was the result of a common practice in suburban public schools, tracking.  Until last week, I saw nothing strange about the practice.  Everyone I knew had experienced the same phenomenon, and we never questioned it. Then I saw Waiting for Superman, the new must-see documentary about education in America.

Everyone is aware that our education system is not perfect, but we often assume that the biggest problems are confined to the inner city, to the areas where a combination of low socio-economic status and years of neglect have led to failing schools and failing neighborhoods.  Those problems do exist, but what we fail to recognize is the failure of the education system on the “other side of the tracks.”

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The P&G Sustainability Vision: Reluctant Response or Strategic Shift?

| Tuesday October 5th, 2010 | 1 Comment

P&G Headquarters - Cincinnati, Ohio

By Sara Herald

Last week, Procter & Gamble, the largest consumer product goods company in the world, announced an ambitious new environmental sustainability vision. The parent company of brands like Tide, Pampers, Bounty and countless others appears to have decided that its business stands to suffer significantly as more and more consumers choose “sustainable” products over traditional offerings.

The vision is ambitious: “using 100% renewable or recycled materials for all products and packaging,” “having zero consumer waste go to landfills,” and “emitting no fossil-based CO2 or toxic emissions” are just a few of the near Utopian statements it includes.  In order to achieve those goals, the company has established a set of benchmarks that are much more realistic.  For example, by 2020 the company aims to have renewable materials account for 25% of product/packaging materials, and for their plants to be powered by 30% renewable energy.  While it’s great that a company whose products are used by more than 4 billion people every day has committed to reducing the environmental impact of its operations, it’s hard not to question the firm’s motives.  If buyers as crucial as Walmart weren’t pressuring the company to reduce the environmental footprint of its products, and competitors such as Clorox Green Works, method, and Seventh Generation weren’t performing as well, would P&G even care about sustainability?

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The Future of Cities Lies in Their Veins: Public Transportation, Zoning, and Innovation

| Tuesday September 28th, 2010 | 0 Comments

Sky Train in Dubai. Source: Getty

Globalized trade is driving urbanization at an unprecedented scale.  From 1980 to 2007, China’s population shifted from being 20% to 45% urban.  McKinsey recently reported that by 2030, India will have shifted from being 30% to 50% urban. 

Yet, the inability to keep up with the pace of economic growth, skewed incentives that encourage unnecessary sprawl, and a preference for regional transportation projects over local public transportation have led to inequitable and inefficient outcomes.  Residents face increasingly concentrated slum housing, commuters deal with overcrowded and infrequent bus systems, and motorists sit in congested traffic

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How Food & Energy Efficiency Can Support a Growing Population

| Tuesday September 28th, 2010 | 0 Comments

By David Croushore

The world population is expected to reach 7 billion in the next year, before climbing as high as 10 billion this century.  In the past, population projections like these have often underestimated future population growth. 

When considering the world population, it is common to ask whether or not we have enough natural resources, food, water, and energy, to continue to sustain our growing population.  However, this question ignores a crucial  factor.  The issue has never been how many resources we have, but how efficiently we can harness and  utilize them.

The steep slope of the population line coincides with the spread of agricultural technology throughout the world.  Increased farm yields have continually decreased the cost of food, and advances in sanitation (and modern medicine) have decreased the rate and severity of diseases.

The challenge we face as a world civilization going forward is to continue to pioneer new and efficient means of food and energy production, sanitizing water, and combating diseases of civilization.

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Capital Bikeshare Launches in DC

| Thursday September 23rd, 2010 | 0 Comments

By Taylor Muckerman

In a city known for its use of public transit and foot travel, Washington, DC, is finally revving up its efforts to increase pedal power. On September 20, 2010, Capital Bikeshare took a major step towards placing an American city on the same stage as many cities across the European continent. 1,100 bikes are now readily available at 49 stations scattered across DC and Arlington, VA. The new venture is a great improvement on the city’s last attempt at this bike sharing.

Coming to a kiosk near you

The inspiration and blueprint for the Capital Bikeshare project was laid out in August of 2008, when DC made their first crude attempt at instituting a bike share program. This came at the heels of Paris unveiling its 10,000 bike network. So, what was it that our capital countered with? A measly 100 bikes spread across a paltry ten stations. Needless to say, this system did not last long due to limited availability and access limited to those with a yearly subscription. What it did do, however, was alert the general population to the practicality of a bike sharing network if run efficiently.

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Reusable Bag E.Coli Scare: Industry Exaggeration?

| Saturday June 26th, 2010 | 9 Comments

By David Abraham

This month, researchers at the University of Arizona released a study (PDF) showing that reusable grocery bags might be contaminated with E. Coli and other harmful bacteria.  They conclude that bags must be washed frequently to avoid cross contamination with other items. Sounds like a problem.

However, the source of the $30,000 in funding used to conduct the study came from none other than the American Chemistry Council, a group that represents plastic manufacturers. 

I admit that I don’t use reusable bags every time I shop (hey, I’ve got to clean the cat’s litter box somehow). But I try my best and am very skeptical of this study – not to mention its timing – with a plastic bag ban on the verge of being passed in California.

Whether it’s an exaggeration or not, the press is eating it up with a recent google search yielding dozens of articles trumpeting the study. It’s just the sort of thing that could drive people into a gemophobic frenzy. NPR points out that even if e.coli were to be found in reusable bags (after all, 97% of folks never wash them) it is very unlikely to be found in sufficient quantities to make people sick.

Also worth noting, however, is that many reusable bags are also made by the same plastic manufacturers who are represented by the American Chemistry Council.

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Vote Here: Where in Africa Would You Invest?

| Wednesday June 9th, 2010 | 3 Comments

By David Abraham

Two people are sent by their company to a poor and dusty country.  When they return, they report separately to the same supervisor.  “Well, what did you find?” asks the manager of his first employee.  “Sir, the people there don’t even have shoes.  The place is just too poor for us to bother with.”  The second employee is later asked the same question and replies: “Boss, everyone’s walking around barefoot.  How soon can we ship shoes!?”

Don’t be too alarmed at my bad taste, I heard this [bad] joke from a Nigerian venture capitalist as he explained the business growth opportunities that are cropping up in places like Sierra Leone and Liberia.  So, with the first African World Cup upon us, leave your comment below to tell us where on the Continent you would put your money and why.

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