The Leon Hess Business School hosted the second annual Sustainability in Business Panel to educate students on the future of business in tandem with sustainable models of corporate social responsibility.
Nearly 100 students gathered in Young Auditorium from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. on March 5 to learn from sustainable business professionals who gathered as panelists, about their role in sustainability. For the panel, sustainability was defined as being a wholesome mindfulness of society and the planet at large in businesses’ decision making.
The evening kicked off with a light appetizer reception followed by an introduction of the panelists done by the moderator and primary organizer Scott Jeffrey, Ph.D., an associate professor in the school of business and decision sciences and a member of the New Jersey Higher Education Partnership for Sustainability (NJHEPS).
Jeffrey proceeded to ask the panelists a round of questions before the panelists held the microphone for a few minutes each and opened the room to questions.
“I feel sustainability is the way of now,” said panelist Kyle Tafuri, Director of Sustainability for Hackensack Meridian Health. “Changes are occurring within businesses of all sizes to account for some of the issues we are seeing today. Companies like Unilever see the threat of these environmental issues to their bottom line. In the future, sustainability will just be ingrained into people’s everyday lives.”
“At the end of the day, our businesses and communities rely on the health of the planet we live on,” Tafuri continued.
Other panelists included Richard Lawton, the Executive Director of the New Jersey Sustainable Business Council; Amy Tuininga, Ph.D., the Director of the PSEG Institute for Sustainability Studies at Montclair State University; and Maiya Furgason, an adjunct professor at the Leon Hess Business School.
Key topics discussed and questions asked centered around what it means to be sustainable in business, what role sustainability will play in business over the next five, ten, and 20 years, and what careers are available for people who study sustainability.
Present at the event was Marco Palladino, a senior criminal justice student with a focus on sustainability.
“If the human species want to continue to occupy the planet, then sustainability in business is beyond necessary,” said Palladino. “At Monmouth we teach business ethics. Profit can be important, but remembering we have a responsibility to the communities we serve is equally so. We need to make sure we are not jeopardizing future generations.”
Jeffrey said that the evening was planned because the University is meant to train the leaders of tomorrow. With that, the students need to be aware of the issues that will be faced, both environmentally and in business in the future. It is the common consensus amongst the panelists that these issues are relevant across all disciplines and important for more than just science and business professionals.
Furthermore, attendance to the event provided students an opportunity to network with other professionals in the field and build useful connections for the future.
“Sustainability in business needs to happen. The students need to be aware of this. Monmouth is behind the curve as a university and we need to catch up to where other NJ universities are in sustainability. It’s not ingrained in our culture but it needs to be,” continued Jeffrey.
Elizabeth Newcombe, a senior business management student, said “It’s easier in the short run to solely focus on having a good bottom line, but in reality the way to do good business, which is proved by a lot of Japanese models, is to dominate the market share. In an effort to gain a high market share, sustainable business practices and good relationships with customers are infinitely more important than the bottom line.”
Newcombe continued, “The easiest way to get a good bottom line is to make the cheapest product in the worst way, which is not a sustainable model because you will not maintain good relations with your customers, or build a trust, there will be no reason to come back if your products are poor quality.”
At the event Lawton spoke to this concept by sharing the New Jersey Sustainable Business Council’s focus on “people, planet, and profit,” a triple bottom line model that Lawton stressed would encourage positive societal growth and development driven by business. This model is designed to benefit a business’s success while achieving good for all members of society and the world.
Tafuri said, “Leading businesses are becoming sustainable because it benefits the bottom line when done the right way. All of the issues today are opening up opportunities for entrepreneurs and business to innovate and create solutions. Switching over to healthcare, hospitals do not have a choice, at the end of the day we will only be as strong as the communities we operate in.”
To illustrate the importance of corporate social responsibility and sustainability, Jeffrey referenced a newsworthy call to action from Laurence Fink, CEO of Blackrock, a global investment management firm with over six trillion dollars in assets. The call to action was sent to all of the companies Blackrock invests in.
The letter in part read, “Society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose. To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society. Companies must benefit all of their stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers, and the communities in which they operate.”
Tafuri’s advice to students is to find their purpose. “You are going to spend many years working, if you want to be the most fulfilled, work in an area that you feel is your purpose. Success will come if you are doing what you are passionate about,” Tafuri said.
Supporters and organizers of this event also included Trish Lemarca, the assistant to the Dean of the Leon Hess Business School and The Urban Coast Institute (UCI).
Any students interested in sustainable business or environmental sustainability are encouraged to email Jeffrey at email@example.com.
IMAGES TAKEN from monmouth.edu