Social Enterprise Symposium
The passion for sustainable business practices and fostering a
work-place culture centered on creating social value was palpable at the
Robert H. Smith School of Business’ 5th Annual Social
Enterprise Symposium on March 1, 2013.
Hosted by Smith’s Center for Social Value Creation
(CSVC), the daylong conference took place at the University of
Maryland’s Stamp Student Union, during which more than 1,000 attendees –
mostly students – filtered in and out of the 14 presentations and panels
geared toward creating a better world though business principles.
The symposium kicked off with a glowing introduction from Dean G. “Anand” Anandalingam,
who thanked CSVC Director and Assistant Dean of Global Initiatives Melissa Carrier
for her and her team’s hard work: “When you have someone who has a real passion
and someone who has the capability of making their passion a reality, you should
say ‘yes’ – then stay out of the way! … This is really part of our vision, that
the Smith School of Business becomes a vehicle for which our students, staff, faculty
and alumni become agents of economic prosperity and transformative social change.”
Elysa Hammond, the director of Environmental Stewardship for Clif Bar and the
symposium’s morning keynote, took the stage next. She spoke to the audience in the
Grand Ballroom about the significance of addressing the environmental issues businesses
“‘Ecology’ and ‘economics’ share the same root word, ‘eco’ – ‘home,’” she explained.
“Ecology is the study of our home and economics is the efficient management of our
home. Those are our communities, our environment, the planet we call home. It’s
time for ecology and economics to get back together – business is a powerful way
to get things done. Business has been part of the problems we are facing today and
business needs to be part of the solution.”
“We now know that babies are born pre-polluted. Babies are coming into this world
with more than 200 chemical pollutants in their bodies,” Hammond said, enumerating
on other problems. “In our oceans, we have islands of plastic the size of Texas.
… It’s really urgent that we take action.”
With her call to action, Hammond put the issues at hand in a language all business
people can understand: “Business has its own langue for challenge: ‘opportunities’
– we have a lot of opportunities that need your attention.”
She switched her attention to Clif Bar, a family and employee-owned company of
more than 330 employees that began in 1992.
The company took a chance and went organic after the founder turned down a multimillion
dollar offer to buy Clif Bar: “He said, ‘I’m going to start running the company
the way I want to. I’m going to run the kind of company that I would like to work
for,’” Hammond recounted.
Since the transition to organic, Hammond has worked on Clif Bar’s approach to
sustainability, which she explained has five components:
When Clif Bar’s organic product took off, they started to create products in
other niche food markets: “We create products that people want and really need.
People wrote to us and asked, “Can you create something for women?” So we created
the Luna Bar with fewer calories, more calcium and higher protein.”
Hammond continued to give several examples of Clif Bar’s organic and sustainable
business practices, as well as the ways the employees strive to give back to their
community. She left the crowd with one resounding message: “You can market and create
good at the same time.”
When the morning keynote ended, conference attendees had several breakout sessions
to attend, one of which was the “Key Ingredients for a Mission Driven Organization.”
On this panel, Richard Eidlin, policy director for the Sustainable Business Council;
Amy Hall, director of social consciousness at Eileen Fisher; and Anas “Andy” Shallal,
founder of Busboys and Poets, discussed the issues of running a sustainable business
from an employee-centric point of view.
“Workers and employees are everything,” Shallal said. “When you talk about a
sustainable restaurant you never think about the workers. You think about the cows
and the chickens, but rarely the people who work there. We started focusing on that
a lot more after we opened, on issues that seem to be common sense, like paid sick
leave. Things like this may be a burden on a business, but as a society we have
to decide that some things are not acceptable.”
The panel’s overarching message: Change doesn’t just happen with a PowerPoint
presentation. You must take action.
About the Robert H. Smith School of Business
The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader
in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the
University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate,
full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, MS in business, PhD and executive
education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The
school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning
locations in North America and Asia.
Jessica Smith, Internal Communications Manager