Disrupting the Status Quo

This post was written by Amy Snyder and Beth Bafford. Amy and Beth are both second year MBA students, CASE Fellows, and the co-chairs of this year’s fantastic Duke MBA Net Impact “Sustainable Business and Social Impact” Conference. 

Earlier this month, Fuqua’s Net Impact Club held its 7th annual Sustainable Business and Social Impact Conference.

Approximately 400 attendees from Duke, other area schools, Durham, and beyond came to Duke on February 15th to discuss key issues in the sustainability and social impact fields, focused on the conference’s theme of “disrupting the status quo.”  This theme, chosen to highlight the major trends in the field, challenged everyone to think about how they can be more disruptive in their lives and careers.

Opening keynote speaker Jill Dumain, Director of Environmental Strategy at Patagonia, kicked off the day with an inspiring presentation about how Patagonia has disrupted the status quo through their innovative sourcing and branding strategies.  This left the audience extremely impressed by how much Patagonia really “walks the walk” when it comes to sustainable apparel practices.

The morning’s energy – and disruptive thread – continued throughout the day in sixteen panels organized into four functional tracks – Strategy, Marketing, Finance, and Systems Innovations.  These panel sessions, led by 57 speakers and moderators from a variety of backgrounds and organizations, explored some of the most important and pressing issues in the world today, from impact investing to global health to mobile technology for international development.

Attendees heard first hand from the speakers about how they can use their career to create an impact, no matter what their path.  Attendees learned about everything from starting a socially-focused, for-profit business, as outlined in the “CEOs of Change” panel, to investing for social and environmental returns within a traditional finance companies like Intel Capital and Bank of America – proving once more that an impactful career does not have to be one isolated in the non-profit sector.

The day was capped off with another fantastic keynote speech by Laura Callanan of McKinsey who challenged everyone to question their assumptions around social entrepreneurship and innovation to maintain a healthy level of skepticism in this fast-moving, exciting field.  (For more on Laura’s speech, check back on the blog soon!)

At the end of the day, all in attendance left informed of the disruptive forces at work in the social and environmental world, as well as inspired as to how to contribute in a way that makes most sense for them.  Second year Fuqua student Lindsey Michaelides left saying that the conference “re-inspired me and reminded me why I came to business school.”

To see a full list of the speakers and panel sessions at the 2012 Sustainable Business and Social Impact Conference, please visit the Duke MBA Net Impact website: www.dukembanetimpact.org.

More takeaways from the conference are coming soon, so watch this blog!  And if you’d like to watch Jill Dumain’s opening keynote in full, see below: