SBSI 2015: A Decade of Ideas, A Lifetime of Action

This post was written by Mary O’Donnell, Duke MBA student and a CASE Fellow, in March 2015. Mary, along with fellow Duke MBA student Blaise Cote, was the co-director of the 2015 Sustainable Business and Social Impact conference.

As a MBA student at Fuqua, I am empowered every time I hear Fuqua Dean Boulding state “that business will be the transformational engine in the 21st century.” These words came to life during the 10th Anniversary of the Sustainable Business and Social Impact (SBSI) Conference. With a record number of participants, both students and professionals representing a diverse number of sectors and regions, the conference celebrated the growth as well as the future of social impact in business.

In 2006, the first conference titled, MBA Footprints, was self-declared a “nontraditional event.”  Over the past decade the intersection of social impact in business has moved from being on the fringe to being strategically embedded across industries. To emphasize this evolution and encourage attendees to translate the ideas discussed during the day into impact, we declared the 2015 SBSI theme to be, A Decade of Ideas; A Lifetime of Action.


The opening keynote speaker, Seventh Generation President & CEO John Replogle, boldly asked the students in the audience to take advantage of living during this transformational time. He pushed that we all should strive to become better human beings, both professionally and personally, in order to solve the world’s problems.  He also discussed the importance of B-Corps and the need for businesses to re-frame their model to focus on long-term shared value. See the full talk here.

The day also included six engaging panels on corporate social responsibility, education, global health, impact investing, social enterprise, and sustainability. The speakers, including ten Duke Alumni, shared their experiences and insights on the challenges and opportunities the sector holds.


One example was Christine Bader, a CSR pioneer, who inspired the audience to become corporate idealists by sharing strategies she learned from her success with BP as well as guidelines to prevent common CSR failures. Katie Kross, Managing Director of EDGE and author of Profession and Purpose, held a candid conversation with Bader about the evolution of the CSR role, incremental successes, as well as how to position yourself successful in this career. See the full talk here.

The CASE team led a workshop on Tri-Sector Leadership – a powerful theme that CASE is exploring this year focused on more effectively solving social problems by engaging the nonprofit, for profit and public sectors.  The workshop featured a case study on Embrace, the social enterprise that developed an innovative and affordable infant warmer.  In honor of the conference theme, A Decade of Ideas; A Lifetime of Action, we donated $2500 to Embrace through a Duke Alumna founded organization, Universal Giving. With this funding, Embrace will be able to provide 50 infants with life saving warmth.


The conference ended with a dynamic talk by U.S. Secretary Thomas E. Perez. He shared his unrelenting optimism about how sustainable business, social impact, and leaders of consequence will be the core of a thriving economy. See the full talk here.

This conference has been one of the best experiences during my time at Fuqua. I worked with an amazing group of dedicated students and exemplary professionals. I am not alone when I say that the day energized me to do well as I do good in my future career. I am excited to stay connected with Fuqua and the social impact conversation as an alumni by returning to this conference each year!

Thank you to everyone who attended this truly memorable conference. We are especially thankful to our sponsor Collegiate Capital, CASE, EDGE, our Net Impact Cabinet, and, of course Team Fuqua, who made this day a success!