Business, Sustainability and Social Change at Net Impact 2014

Dr. Temple Grandin with me and fellow Sloanies, Jacqueline Karlin and Sarah Day Kalloch

It’s been a great, busy adventure since I started my MBA at MIT Sloan in the fall. In November, I joined 16 of my classmates and the associate director of the MIT Sloan Sustainability Initiative in Minneapolis, Minnesota (before the snow hit!) for the 2014 Net Impact Conference.

Net Impact is a community of student and professional leaders dedicated to creating positive social and environmental change through their careers, and this conference helps to facilitate just that. The annual conference provides an immersive environment of thought-provoking panel discussions, presentations, hands on activities, and opportunities to connect with 2,700 similarly motivated students and professionals.

Many of my classmates and I are considering what we will do for the summer and full-time after graduation, and it was energizing to see the many ways that practitioners at organizations and businesses across the world are making a social impact.

Have you ever chosen to buy a good because of its social mission (such as a pair of TOMS)? The session “Cause Brands and Buy-One Give-One: The Great Debate” explored the complex issues of effectiveness, unintended consequences, sustainability, and consumer satisfaction. Panelists from Yumbutter and Nouri highlighted the importance of their missions and continuous improvement, while underscoring the need to have a high-quality product in order to keep consumers (even those who are interested in their social mission) coming back.

Sloanies at Net Impact 2014

MIT Sloan at Net Impact 2014

There has also been growing interest in the pay for success model, which aims to increase investments in interventions by tying government funding for social service providers to the achievement of agreed upon outcomes. A session that asked whether pay-for-success can pay off big time provided an overview of the model and the results that have been achieved thus far. A representative from Third Sector Capital, a government innovation fellow, and a non-profit leader shared their perspectives on what works and where the future should be headed in this regard.

As an added bonus, I attended a session on climate smart agriculture and happened to sit at the same table as Dr. Temple Grandin. Dr. Grandin is a personal hero of mine, she has made – and continues to make – a significant impact in the worlds of autism rights activism and animal welfare. It was an honor to meet her, and we were fortunate to get a picture. Dr. Grandin was attending the agriculture session as a participant, but it was no surprise when, a few moments after our session, she commanded the stage in the role of a dynamic closing keynote speaker.

For those of us at Sloan, our attendance was supported by MIT Sloan’s Sustainability Initiative, which brings together students, faculty, researchers, and business leaders to advance sustainability issues. In addition to supporting events across Sloan and promoting the conference to students, the Sustainability Initiative helped to defray our cost of attendance and organized a wonderful group dinner, creating even stronger bonds between my classmates. In this, and many other ways, MIT Sloan and the Sustainability Initiative in particular are helping to develop a community of leaders who will innovate for a sustainable future and advanced human welfare.

Mark your calendars now – Net Impact 2015 will be Nov. 5-7 in beautiful Seattle, Washington!

Rena Pacheco-Theard

Rena Pacheco-Theard is a digital business and public policy professional with experience working across the non-profit, public and business sectors. A former consultant, she has also worked with tech startups and a youth outreach non-profit. Rena is an MBA 2016 candidate at MIT Sloan.

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1 Comment

  1. Hi Rena,
    How are you? It is very exciting reading about your experiences. I have also read about the MIT Sloan’s Sustainability intitiative, Net Impact Club, MIT water club and Sustainability certificate. I am applying to the two year MBA program and want to pursue a career in Sustainability consulting with an emphasis on water related sustainability practices.
    I am Rahul and I am from India. I have very closely experienced drinking water problems of developing nations. I have been working on projects to ensure clean drinking water since college. In college, I had developed a model for separation of heavy metal impurities from water using surfactants. In my job profile, I am responsible for the operation for the Waste Water treatment plant in my company to ensure recycling of water. I believe I have the technical expertise and want to gain the business and financial insight so that I can realize my dream of providing consulting on water sustainability practices to developing nations.
    I would like to know how I can go about my goal at Sloan? Which courses will be relevant and what path should I follow? From the Sloan website and from talking to few of the students, I have come to know that the Sustainability certificate is one such field that I can help me learn more about the sustainable business environment, but I want to learn more. Can you provide me contacts of few students who have similar career goals? What are the other factors you think I should look into?
    Thank you for your time. I am looking forward to your reply.

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