Reaching Beyond the Bottom Line at SBSI 2013

This post was written by Kirsten Hagfors, one of the SBSI 2013 conference co-directors. Kirsten will soon graduate from Duke with a joint MBA/MEM (Master of Environmental Management) degree.

This past February the Duke MBA Net Impact Club held its signature event: The Duke Conference on Sustainable Business and Social Impact (SBSI). 400 people came together to think outside of traditional business roles and brainstorm what it means to have a mission that is “Beyond the Bottom Line.”

SBSI occurred during Fuqua’s Green Week, a week dedicated to promoting sustainability, so the conference had even more incentive to embrace sustainable and waste-reducing initiatives. Thanks to donations of Counter Culture Coffee and Rainforest Alliance Certified Lipton Teas, the audience was energized to start the day. Most of our attendees downloaded the conference program as a free mobile application through Guidebook, who donated this electronic, paper-saving feature to the event.

Fifty speakers across four tracks (Sustainability, Finance, Social and Technology) contributed their time and insights to the 8th year of this conference, which took place at The Fuqua School of Business. Daytime MBA Dean, Russ Morgan, opened the event with supportive words about the importance of this conference and the value of “Beyond the Bottom Line” thinking (video). Daniel Norber and Kirsten Hagfors, Conference Co-Chairs, welcomed the audience and explained the TED-style keynotes.

Those keynotes started with Nikki Rodoni, Director of Sustainability at Gills Onions. She shared the huge scale at which Gills operates (300,000 pounds of onion waste every day!) and the importance of integrating sustainability and social responsibility into the company’s values. (video)

Next up was Nino Fanlo, Chief Financial Officer at SoFi. The statistics that he presented about default rates on school loans (Duke students are at less than 0.5%) demonstrated the need for a solution that is not “One Size Fits All.” By connecting students with alumni and establishing relationships and mentoring opportunities, SoFi is finding ways to alleviate the challenges that students face when financing their education. (video)

11 panels and lunch networking sessions gave attendees the opportunity to pick a path that interested them, but Kirsten’s advice to “go outside your comfort zone” was taken to heart by guests who attended sessions outside of their professional scope.

Coming back together in the afternoon, Dan Vermeer, Executive Director of the Center of Energy, Development and the Global Environment (EDGE), spoke about the importance of partnerships between students, administration, faculty and professionals to leverage expertise to innovate and advance.

SBSI closed with two final keynotes. The first was delivered by Elliot Sanchez, Founder of mSchool. Elliot inspired the crowd to think about creative approaches to education. His passion about offering studentsindividual paths towards learning through technology was absolutely infectious. (video)

Will Patrick, Rapid Evaluator at Google[x], left the audience expecting the unexpected after his presentation on Moonshot Thinking. Google glass, self-driving vehicles, space elevators: anything is possible with a motivated team of people committed to the task at hand. (video)

Thank you to everyone who made this day possible.  We truly launched “Beyond the Bottom Line,” and we can’t wait to see where we land at next year’s SBSI Conference!

Want to learn more about the 2013 SBSI conference?