As a first-year graduate business student, it is easy to become absorbed in “the core.” Accounting, finance, marketing, data analysis: all of these classes cover the topics that companies expect their MBAs to be versed and skilled in because they serve the primary objective of improving the “bottom line” or, in layman’s terms, success. Yet success cannot simply be measured by higher sales, lower costs, and influxes of cash. An arguably more significant idea that is gaining attention in the business world, one that deals with sustainability and corporate social responsibility, is the “double bottom line,” and it was the key theme at last month’s Net Impact conference in Baltimore. Net Impact is an international organization with a University of Wisconsin-Madison student chapter (one of the many student organizations at UW-Madison). The organization focuses on putting business skills to work for good throughout every sector, showing the world that it’s possible “to make a net impact that benefits not just the bottom line, but people and the planet, too.”
At the annual conference, I and four students from the Wisconsin MBA participated in three days of workshops, panel discussions, and keynote addresses. We had the opportunity to listen to the governor of Maryland, the CEO of Recyclebank, the chief sales and marketing officer of Waste Management, the president of Honest Tea, the chief sustainability officer of Coca-Cola, and many other great business executives and leaders. All in all, the conference covered a wide range of topics and a few of the highlights included a panel on social enterprise in the fashion industry; a session requiring creative, round-robin introductions with program participants; and a hands-on consulting meeting with local Baltimore organizations. It was an impressive collection of participants, but more remarkable was the presence of 2,000+ individuals all interested in working in business for the public good. I left energized and inspired from not only engaging with the speakers, but also from myriad authentic, meaningful conversations with MBA students from all over the world.
So why was participating in the Net Impact Conference important to my MBA experience? Student organizations provide the opportunity to engage in meaningful, mission-driven dialogues, activities, and events with other students, either within Grainger Hall, on campus, or throughout the world. And as we are quickly learning in the Wisconsin MBA, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts….