UNC Kenan-Flagler marked 15 years as a global leader in sustainable enterprise at a special event on April 22. The Center for Sustainable Enterprise hosted the 15th anniversary celebration, which featured the presentation of the Core Faculty Champion and Distinguished Alumni in Sustainability Awards and a keynote address by Christine Bader, author of “The Evolution of a Corporate Idealist: When Girl Meets Oil.”
UNC Kenan-Flagler began its focus on the triple-bottom-line approach – measuring success in terms of financial profitability, environmental stewardship and societal well-being – in 1999. It was one of the first business schools to offer a comprehensive curriculum in sustainable enterprise that includes experiential learning, enrichment activities and career development.
“This is a special evening as we celebrate 15 years of leadership in sustainability,” said Doug Shackelford, dean and Meade H. Willis Distinguished Professor of Taxation. “I want to honor the many people – faculty, students, alumni and staff – on whose shoulders we stand today. They were the pioneers for our innovations in a field that is now widely accepted – and even expected – to be part of a business school.”
The Core Faculty Champion in Sustainability Award went to Chris Bingham, associate professor of strategy and entrepreneurship and Phillip Hettleman Fellow.
Net Impact Club President Meisha McDaniel (MBA ’16) presented the award to Bingham, who was recognized by student nominations as “inspirational, challenging and empathetic” and for integrating social impact into his strategy course.
Student nominations credited him for going “out of his way to encourage students to consider their contributions to underserved populations and other causes they care about.”
Another wrote that he asked more of them “than to just learn strategy; he asked us to make an impact with his course and with our education.”
The event also honored the MBA students graduating with a Sustainable Enterprise Concentration.
“I’m proud that UNC Kenan-Flagler led the way – and I’m even prouder of the students we are recognizing tonight,” Shackelford said. “In a few weeks they will join the ranks of more than 550 MBA students who graduated with a concentration in sustainable enterprise – and are working every day to change the world by using a triple-bottom-line approach.”
Shackelford presented the Distinguished Alumni in Sustainability Award to Brett Smith (MBA ’94), president of Counter Culture Coffee.
Smith is celebrating his own anniversary this year as described by the news headline “Pioneering Durham coffee business celebrates 20 caffeinated years of community.” He co-founded Counter Culture in Durham in 1995, just a year after he received his MBA from Carolina. Its mission is to “source, roast and deliver the most exquisite, freshest coffee in the world.”
Counter Culture began providing customized coffee blends for Triangle area restaurants. Today it has grown its operations up and down the East Coast – from Atlanta to New York – on to Chicago and soon to California.
And as the firm has prospered, it’s also been a leader in fair trade, sustainable operations and educating its workers and the public on all aspects of coffee.
“We’re proud of Brett’s success,” said Shackelford. “He personifies our commitment to shaping principled leaders who drive extraordinary results for the bottom line and the greater good. He also is a great alumnus who demonstrates his commitment to UNC Kenan-Flagler through his continued engagement with the School.”
Smith’s contributions over the years includes serving as a career coach, speaking in classes and volunteering his business as a pilot to help establish the former Business Accelerator for Sustainable Entrepreneurship (BASE). He also has offered rigorous business consulting opportunities with his firm’s sustainable operations and educational programs to our MBA and Undergraduates students.
The past 20 years have been an incredible journey that began with a business plan he wrote while at UNC Kenan-Flagler, Smith said.
Sustainability was not part of their explicit strategy but he knew he wanted to build a good company. “Building strong relationships with business partners, suppliers and employees seemed like good business sense,” he said.
Fifteen years ago, the firm made a formal commitment to sustainability, he said. “Sustainability is not an either/or – it’s not a compromise. It’s linked to and it’s the essence of what we have to do for success.”
“In our journey to grow a great business, we found sustainability is the way.”
For more on our commitment to sustainable enterprise, download the Spring ’15 issue of UNC Business magazine.
“Building strong relationships with business partners, suppliers and employees seemed like good business sense”