Sustainability a Career Opportunity, Poole Advisory Board Chair Tells Graduates
Saturday, May 12, 2012
The Poole College of Management Dean’s Advisory Board includes representatives from diverse business and industry sectors who mentor students, present classroom guest lectures and engage with the college’s students and faculty. The chairman of the board or other board representative also presents remarks at the college’s commencement ceremonies.
At the Poole College’s May 12, 2012 graduation ceremony, remarks were presented by Henry Campen, a partner in the Raleigh office of Parker Poe Adams and Bernstein LLP and chairman of the Dean’s Advisory Board. Following is a summary of his remarks.
Congratulations on your graduation from the Poole College of Management. As a member of the Dean’s Board of Advisors over the past six years, I have had the opportunity to meet many of you at board meetings and college activities.
The highlight of our board meetings in recent years has been presentations by students from the college – undergraduate and graduate. We have heard about internships and practicums – domestic and international. You have told us about research projects you have undertaken and more.
After each meeting, we on the board marvel at how poised, articulate and professional you are. As business people, we are sophisticated consumers of business presentations. And what we have seen from Poole College students ranks right up there with what we hear from the best young professionals in our businesses. Take it from me, you are well prepared. You have what it takes to be successful in the business world.
Now, I want to take a few minutes and talk about what I believe will the one of the defining themes of your business careers, and that is sustainability.
You are all well aware of the generous gift from Lonnie Poole for which your college is now named. With that transformational gift came a commitment from Dean Weiss to work toward integrating sustainability into the college’s curriculum, research, business outreach and student activities in recognition of Lonnie Poole’s long time commitment to sustainability in business.
A faculty task force has recently completed a study of opportunities for the Poole College of Management to provide leadership in sustainability research and education.
h3. What is Sustainability?
The faculty report concludes there is no one generally accepted definition but cites a description put forth by KPMG as a good amalgam. I am paraphrasing:
- Revenue growth through the introduction of environmentally or socially responsible products and services
- Cost optimization through increased resource and operational efficiencies; rationalization of assets and suppliers, and waste reduction; and,
- Enhanced risk management through improved transparency in identifying and managing operational events and risks.
As you can see, sustainability is about maximizing shareholder value.
Among the first sustainability initiatives businesses often take are efforts at waste reduction, energy conservation and water reduction. These are referred to as the low-hanging fruit of sustainability, and large savings can be realized here.
Wal-Mart, a recognized leader in sustainability practices, now requires its suppliers to answer a “Sustainability Assessment” addressing their steps to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, reduce material waste in production, among other factors. To meet their corporate goal of providing lowest prices for their customers, Wal-Mart’s strategy is to drive sustainability practices throughout the entire supply chain.
We are all now accustomed to seeing nutrition fact disclosures on food products showing the grams of fat, sugar and the like. Expect soon to see similar disclosures on other products showing, for instance, the amount of energy and water used in production of an item. Some of you may be involved in designing those disclosures.
Has business embraced sustainability?
The answer is yes. Among the sources cited in the faculty study was a report published last year by the MIT Sloan Business School on the results of a global study of sustainability in business.
Among their findings:
- The majority of companies surveyed view sustainability as becoming core to their business – not window dressing.
- Running counter to the economic downturn, 70 percent of these companies expect to increase investments in sustainability over the coming year.
- Early adopters of sustainability practices say these practices have increased profits. Yes, doing the right thing can lead to enhanced profits.
All companies surveyed recognize the brand-building benefits of developing a reputation for being sustainable.
So have businesses embraced sustainability? The ones who will survive have.
What is driving this movement toward sustainability? The MIT study I mentioned identified a number of factors.
- Public policy is a driver. Efforts in this country and especially in Europe now to reduce carbon emissions and improve water quality are examples. Another policy driver is the increased emphasis on renewable sources for energy generation such as wind and solar.
- Institutional investors are drivers of sustainability. Increasingly, they are looking at investments through a sustainably lens. In a study released last year, PWC found that 84% of IPO filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission had some level of disclosure related to sustainability. The study found that most of these disclosures were not related to regulatory requirements but were voluntary. Businesses are anticipating that potential investors want to know about the company’s sustainability plan.
- Customers are driving companies toward sustainability. Surveys show that sustainability considerations drive or influence more than half of shoppers. Increasingly we expect the products we buy to be produced with sustainable methods.
- Employees are also driving the sustainability agenda at their companies. Your class will bring with you a keener sense of the importance of sustainability than my generation.
What Does Sustainability Mean For Your Careers?
It means opportunity. I believe sustainability will be an overarching theme of business in your professional careers. To put this opportunity in perspective, many have stated this opportunity will be as large was globalization was just a few years ago. Each and everyone one of you will have some role in making your business more sustainable.
Those of you graduating from the MAC program will very likely become involved in the growing field of sustainability reporting. Or you may be called upon to determine the Return on Investment for company sustainability efforts or a specific sustainability-focused capital expenditure.
Those of you with business administration degrees – no matter your concentration – will be called upon to introduce sustainability into your enterprise or to refine and expand existing programs and take them to new levels of success. Those of you with a supply chain concentration could easily find yourselves working with suppliers on a Sustainability Assessment such as I described earlier that Wal-Mart requires of its suppliers. Those of you in marketing will be called upon to measure consumer sentiment and develop marketing efforts that will resonate with consumers.
The economics majors among you may be working on modeling the impact of new sustainability initiatives.
The MGIM graduates among you will have a central role in developing innovative methods to make your business more sustainable.
The point is that regardless of your degree, all of you will have an important role to play in this effort. I am confident as you succeed in your careers, you will look back with pride on the leadership role the Poole College of Management has taken in preparing students to develop and lead sustainability efforts in businesses. Congratulations to you and to your families and good luck!
Henry Campen, in the commencement event staging area prior to the start of the program, at the PNC Arena.