Start Something That Matters
By B-School Babe on September 09, 2011
busi·ness - noun /ˈbiznis/
- A person's regular occupation, profession, or trade
- An activity that someone is engaged in
- A person's concern
- Work that has to be done or matters that have to be attended to
- The practice of making one's living by engaging in commerce
More and more, socially sustainable business models are thriving - models that are not just profitable, but also serve the community and the greater good. One of my favorite examples is TOMS Shoes, where giving is a huge component of their business. For every pair of TOMS that you buy, the company will give a pair of shoes (and now glasses) to a person in need. I own two pairs of TOMS shoes and I love them, not only because they are comfortable and stylish, but because of what they represent: that my purchase has helped to make a difference. My TOMS are a symbol of that good deed and I wear them like a badge of honor.
The founder of TOMS, Blake Mycoskie, just launched a book called Start Something That Matters about other entrepreneurs who have been able to create social movements. I have yet to get my hands on it, but just added it to my reading list. Somehow, I intend to fit it in between my Paul Krugman books for Macroeconomics and Jim Collins' Good to Great for Leadership class. I love this stuff and I deeply admire the people that Blake highlights in his book: Lauren Bush founder of FEED Projects, Tony Hsieh of Zappos, Scott Harrison of Charity: Water, to name a few.
Blake talks about his new book and his philosophy behind TOMS in this interview with FastCompany.
Can business make the world a better place? I believe that with emerging business leaders like Blake Mycoskie and his peers, yes it absolutely can... in fact, I believe that in order for businesses to thrive in today's global economy, business leaders must be values-based and, at least attempt, to develop business solutions that make a positive impact on the world. Consumers expect more from businesses today than ever before. As consumers, we have a lot of power. With every purchase we make, we vote on which businesses to support.
So if you are an emerging business leader - or someone considering business school - I encourage you to find ways to embrace this new model of the "double bottom line" of creating change while creating profits and seek out programs that will support your growth.
How do you do this? Here are a few ways that you can start:
1. Find a socially conscious MBA program. Following this growing trend, many business schools offer MBA programs that highlight sustainability or social impact or social enterprise. Some schools offer international seminars in emerging & developing countries, where you would partner with non-profits on the ground to devise solutions. Other schools specialize in alternative energy solutions or social entrepreneurship, hiring the best professors in the field to help build your network.
2. Follow best practices. Start Something That Matters highlights the path of many successful social entrepreneurs and it will be a great resource. However, read stories about "regular" folks that have leveraged their existing skill sets to apply them to sustainability. Here's a profile of Robin Connell, a Cornell MBA grad and manager of sustainability programs at Del Monte foods. She transitioned from a career in publishing and media marketing into the role that she has today.
3. Tap into resources like Net Impact's Business Unusual, an annual review and ranking of business school programs, for prospective students interested in corporate responsibility and sustainability. The guide includes student perspectives, curricula offered and career services in the social impact fields. For the 2011 guide, click on the link below.
4. Attend an Idealist.org graduate fair. The Idealist grad fairs include a broad array of graduate programs - not just Business, but also Public Health, Social Work and the multitude of sustainability certificate programs offered by top schools. The Idealist website helped me to find both my current job at a non-profit organization and led me to my current MBA program at Wharton, a school that has made a huge investment in their social impact offerings.
In short, never stop learning. If you are considering an MBA, do your research and choose a program that can give you the skills you will need to make a difference in the world. If you could care less about being in business and are just reading this blog because you like it (thank you!), find ways to make a difference through your choices as a consumer. Every purchase matters. Do your research on which companies are aligned with your values.
And now, go off, be fabulous and create change. Wear your TOMS too, if you have 'em.
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