I took a risk in committing the time and money to attend the Net Impact Conference at the end of October, and the payoff was immediate. I feared that being cooped up in a car for the 7-hour drive to Ann Arbor had the potential to suck, but the road trip was actually one of the best parts of the experience. Being “stuck” in a car with my classmates was both fun and really quite liberating. All we could do was talk and joke and listen to music – a precious luxury in the life of an MBA. I rode out with Susan Slopek, Matt Jones and Alex Rosenthal and rode back with Ryan Mallet, Rangarajan TC and Alex. We all share an interest in and a passion for sustainability in business, and we were excited about the networking and career prospects that lay ahead. The seven hours went by fast! Rama Murugan and TC made the same drive out to Ann Arbor after Diwali, arriving around 5 am, and like true rock-stars of business, they were ready to go the next day for the kickoff of the conference at 7:30 am. Bottom line, we had a great and diverse Net Impact crew on site, and our mutually reinforcing energy lifted us all up.
Net Impact sets the bar very high for career development conferences. The Net Impact Conference is so much more than a resume drop. We had multiple keynote speakers, more than a hundred industry panels, happy hours and yes, a career expo. The differentiator is the fact that it is common interest, a sense of mission and shared vision that unite the participants and sponsors. So much good can come out of that kind of environment, whether you land a job or not. Collectively we are moving the dialogue on business, the environment and sustainability forward, and it’s a privilege to be a part of it.
That said, the career expo was very exciting. It was a moment when my career aspirations were concentrated in to just a few rooms. The feeling of potential was incredible. I would not be surprised if my summer internship has something to do with what happened in those rooms. I came away from the conference with new certainty in my plan to pursue a position in corporate sustainability or to work for a company where I can make an impact through resource efficiency and the reduction of waste. I met fantastic people from the Environmental Defense Fund, DuPont, Herman Miller and the National Park Service – organizations for whom I would be proud to work.
There were so many takeaways from the Conference, but the one that sticks out the most is the concept of the cradle-to-cradle product lifecycle. William McDonough, one of the opening keynote panelists and co-author of the book, “Cradle to Cradle / Remaking the Way We Make Things” presented this new paradigm – zero waste and 100% recyclability – in the context of the bottled water industry. Speaking with co-panelist, Kim Jeffries, CEO and President of Nestle Waters North America, McDonough showed how working with and through – not against – the world’s most powerful businesses we can move towards the critically important goals of preserving the environment and conserving our finite natural resources. Companies like Herman Miller and DuPont have embraced the zero waste, 100% recyclability concept. They are making these goals fundamental to their operating strategies. The Environmental Defense Fund leads the way by embedding its MBA Climate Corps Fellows in Fortune 500 companies to help uncover energy savings that ultimately reduce the consumption and waste of fossil fuels. This is inspiring stuff!
I am excited for what is to come this year and over the next summer during my internship. The Net Impact Conference has given me what I had hoped for: an expanded knowledge of the issues and opportunities in sustainability and clarity in my vision of how I can make an impact. Now it’s time to get embedded!
- Ezra Nanes, Smeal Class of 2012