(CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Sept. 6, 2019) A women-owned food hub for local pasture-raised meat farmers and an advisor for an energy and utility industry management consulting firm are the recipients of the 2019 UNC Sustainability Awards, presented Sept. 5 at the North Carolina Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill.
Durham, North Carolina-based Firsthand Foods received the award for leadership in corporate sustainability. Chris Vlahoplus, an internal advisor for ScottMadden Management Consultants, was presented with the distinguished UNC Kenan-Flagler alumni award. Hosted by the Center for Sustainable Enterprise, an affiliate of UNC Kenan-Flagler’s Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise, the awards honor companies and individuals for their exceptional commitment to initiative, innovation and impact in the area of sustainability. Sponsors for the event include Bank of America, the Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School and Fullsteam Brewery.
Faculty Director of the Center for Sustainable Enterprise and Assistant Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship Olga Hawn said, “As the Center for Sustainable Enterprise celebrates 20 years, we reflect on how far we have come in a relatively short period of time. Taking initiative, being innovative and having a measurable impact are the hallmarks of truly great leaders and we are pleased that our winners this year represent the breadth and depth of sustainability pursuits in North Carolina.”
Firsthand Foods works with more than 45 small-scale, pasture-based livestock producers to process and distribute a consistent, sustainable supply of fresh beef, pork and lamb to restaurants and retailers throughout North Carolina. In addition to helping reshape the food production system, co-founders and co-CEOs Jennifer Curtis and Tina Prevatte Levy note that Firsthand Foods’ influence extends beyond the farmers they serve. “Seventy-five percent of the revenues that we bring in from our customers go right back out to rural communities to support not just the farmers, but also the allied businesses in those communities,” said Curtis.
Curtis and Prevatte Levy have links to both UNC and the Center for Sustainable Enterprise, and it was through these connections that the two formed Firsthand Foods. Because of this, their award has special meaning for them. “To be recognized by the community that believed in us when we started ten years ago,” said Prevatte Levy, “is incredibly gratifying.”
The UNC alumni award winner, Chris Vlahoplus, has been at the forefront of consulting for the energy and utility industry for more than 28 years. He previously led ScottMadden’s clean tech and sustainability practice area, and served as co-leader of the firm’s nuclear consulting practice. Currently, he is the liaison for key client relationships and work for ScottMadden, and provides mentorship across the firm. “The same principles that guide the Center for Sustainable Enterprise are ones that I’ve embraced throughout my career,” said Vlahoplus. “I’m honored to be recognized for my commitment to helping businesses adopt sustainability as a blueprint for success.”