Profitable Business vs. Sustainability: Why Not Both?

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Many companies struggle with integrating sustainable practices into their business models. Product labeling brings upon sourcing and traceability issues, and consumer interests are often replaced with cheaper methods of production. Why should profitable business be antithetical to ethics and sustainability?

Anita Roddick (1942-2007), founder of The Body Shop, was a catalyst in combining business practices with ethical choices. Her business model strived to put consumers first. “Roddick believed that business could be run ethically, with what she called ‘moral leadership,’ and still turn a profit.” [1] Roddick did not simply choose one side in the debate between environmental activism vs. creating a profitable business. She chose both.

As a young woman, Roddick spent some time travelling to and exploring abroad. She visited Tahiti, Australia, and South Africa—and was fascinated by the natural body and skincare regiments used in these nations. After marriage, Roddick and her husband owned a restaurant together. But once they decided to sell it, however, Roddick (mother of 2 at the time) was determined to bring in an income to support her family.

Inspired by this “back-to nature cosmetic knowledge” [2] discovered abroad, she founded The Body Shop with a $6,500 loan and a contracted herbalist. Roddick carried out simplistic marketing strategies with consumer interests in mind. Offering discounted refills to returning customers who brought back used containers helped her gain brand loyalty—while also reducing environmental waste. “She used her stores to spread her philosophy and promote causes” [1], revolutionizing the concept of cause marketing and social activism through business practices.

Although Roddick eventually sold The Body Shop to L’Oréal—a company does, in fact, emphasize the importance of sustainable development—she “hoped that the Body Shop would spur L’Oréal to behave more ethically” [1]. Roddick “grew a single shop into an international empire” [2] and forever changed the way in which both producers and consumers think about ethical sourcing and corporate social responsibility.

Roddick’s story reflects my personal values in regards to the importance of sustainability in business. I recently spent my summer interning on the sustainable business practices and corporate social responsibility team at Cone Communications, a specialty public relations and marketing agency. Not only did I work on fair trade and sustainability campaigns, but I also gained experience working with the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) to measure various companies’ commitments to integrate sustainable development into their core business models. As a social and environmental activist, Roddick chose both profitable business and sustainability—a practice more businesses should engage in today.

 

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/12/world/europe/12roddick.html

[2] http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/197688

Julia Cohen

Brandeis University, ‘15

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Defying that Fork in the Road

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I often times wish I were an engineering major. Why you ask? Well because everywhere you turn, websites, magazines, and distant relatives keep saying that the absolute “best” college majors are those which make you the most amount of money in the least amount of time. Magazines like Forbes and distant relatives like Uncle Joe* (name changed for the good of my family) repeatedly drill into our minds that the engineering, math, and science majors are the most lucrative, and that everything else is basically a crapshoot when it comes to success after college.

 

So this puts me into a bit of a predicament, a fork in the road if you will. Because I am neither a biomedical engineering nor an applied mathematics major, my chances of “success” and “employment” after college are in fact dwindling according to the Forbes magazines and Uncle Joes of the world.

 

But then there are the Kat Coles. Kat Cole was planning to receive an engineering degree from the University of North Florida in Jacksonville when a very bizarre but unbelievable opportunity arose. She had the chance to open a Hooters Restaurant…in Australia. While most nineteen year olds, let alone forty-nine year olds, might be understandably hesitant to move to a completely new country with an enormous responsibility, Cole got her passport as soon as she could and caught a flight to Sydney the next day. Now she’s the president of the oh-so tasty cinnamon buns of Cinnabon.

 

Now we’ve all heard of the expression “one in a million” and it has been used over and over again to its exhaustion, but Kat Cole isn’t one in a million if you ask me. Cole is intelligent, brave, and most important, confident. Cole was confident enough to ignore the magazines and websites, and followed her gut, even though it wasn’t pulling her in the direction of math or science. Stories like Cole’s are not fairytales. They can be realities if one only tunes out the buzz from those telling them otherwise. Whether one’s a chemical engineering or English literature major, “success” (however you define it) can be achieved with a little hard work and the confidence to defy that fork in the road.     

 

Eniola Akintade

Tufts University

Women, Change, and the World

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In a world where change is the only constant and where there are rapid developments in every aspect of life on a daily basis, it is inevitable that we will all be constantly exposed to new careers. For all we know, a career that doesn’t even exist today may be the most in demand in a couple decades. As the world develops and globalization makes us more interconnected, yet creates new challenges, our needs as human beings are subject to constant change too.

As women, we are at the center of this change, as we balance our careers, our education, our families and the fact that everything is changing so rapidly. 

Alison Lewis, who was announced one of the most influential women in technology in 2010 by Fast Company, founded a fashion technology firm – Presence. Through this, she wanted to create unique experiences using fashion. At the age of 28, she learned electrical engineering from scratch, in order to accomplish this, because she had a passion for making and creating things that responded to people, that had value because they were from loved ones, and thought that the way to do this was through fashion technology. Her previous label as a “designer” however, did not limit her to follow her passion and become an electrical engineer too. The most inspiring thing is that she amalgamated her varying passions to create an environment for herself that she thought would be the most appropriate for her, and made a career out of that. 

As Danae Ringelmann – founder of IndieGoGo perfectly put it, that “It’s just been about following the dots, connecting with the needs right in front of you, paying attention to your nature and what is really bothering you on a day-to-day basis and then taking action about it.” When the worlds needs are constantly changing, and when different things arise that bother you on a day-to-day basis, it is only normal to change direction in terms of career paths or decisions and it is important to recognize that some of the most successful entrepreneurs have indeed, done so.

 

Salima Visram

McGill University

 

Article Link: http://www.forbes.com/sites/singularity/2013/06/04/for-entrepreneurs-switching-careers-can-be-a-good-thing/

Marissa Mayer: Redefining the “Yellow Brick Road”

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Yahoo was in a pickle of sorts up until Marissa Mayer showed up and became a pregnant first time CEO. With the addition of new programs, revamping old ones, and adding young companies like Tumblr to Yahoo’s repertoire, Marissa has helped to give Yahoo a much needed face lift. The results of her efforts are shocking: the stock price alone has gone up 100% since she started working there.

You may be asking, how did she get to where she is today? As a child, Marissa was interested in a variety of different fields; everything from swimming to ballet, ice-skating, music, and debating. She then took her love of many interests and majored in Symbolic Systems at Stanford University. Symbolic Systems is a multidisciplinary program that combines linguistics, philosophy, cognitive psychology and computer sciences. She loved the material so much that she even taught it at Stanford. Eventually, Mayer starting working at Google, and worked her way up to be the only female engineer in the leading team. She helped design it’s efficiently simple homepage, as well as creating it’s project management structure. After being “demoted” to the maps sector of Google, Marissa decided it was time for a change, which is when she made the switch to Yahoo.  Known as a perfectionist, Mayer focuses on the little details not only in her tasks, but also in her work environment and her relations with others. A firm believer in the notion that happy employers make for better results, Mayer worked on improving the quality of life at the office, redesigning many of the working stations, turning the space into a collaborative force. Known as happy and optimistic, Mayer’s positive energy emanates through the staff.

As she continues to navigate Yahoo, Mayer’s newest challenge is increasing profit, especially since advertising is more and more difficult on small smartphone platforms. Though this may be a challenge, she remains optimistic, pointing out in an interview with Vogue Magazine that everything people do on their mobile phones is what Yahoo provides. Marissa is passionate about putting the customer experience first, and making sure that the needs of the users are addressed. She puts her best foot forward, and believes in surrounding herself with people who inspire her to be her best. Just like when she was offered a starting position on JV or a bench position on varsity in high school, she chose varsity so that she could learn from them, and the following year, she started for the varsity team. Marissa is an inspiration to all, showing how there is no set path to follow; every bump in the road is part of the ultimate yellow brick road. 

 

Sasha Cukier

Emory University

http://www.businessinsider.com/marissa-mayer-biography-2013-8?page=1

Considering Gender Inequality in Japan in the Workplace- Part Two

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Japan’s population structure can be characterized as a vase-shape, caused by low birth rates and increased life expectancy. This population structure that is common in many developed countries has its limitations- a labor shortage. To tackle this problem, the Japanese government has made efforts to meet this increasing need for more labor. The primary focus was to achieve increased female participation in the workforce. These laws hope to fulfill the two-fold purpose of resolving gender inequality problems and increasing labor supply.

            In 1986 Japan first introduced the Equal Employment Opportunity Law (EEOL.) The law stipulated that women should receive similar working opportunities as men particularly in the processes of recruiting, hiring, placement and promotion. (http://wgordon.web.wesleyan.edu/papers/eeol.htm) This was the first law that aimed to achieve equal conditions for women in all aspects of working opportunities.

            Shortly after the EEOL was passed, another law was passed in 1992, known as the Childcare Leave Law. The Childcare Leave Law detailed the opportunity either part of the child one year’s leave without pay, while ensuring they can return to the same job and the same position. Furthermore, the law encouraged the male parent to take the leave so that women could also work while receiving childcare. (http://www.mhlw.go.jp/seisakunitsuite/bunya/kodomo/shokuba_kosodate/jigyou_ryouritsu/ryouritu.html)

            Yet while these two laws were ideal in ameliorating the gender issues in Japan, they failed to have a noticeable effect. Women surprisingly did not respond very well to the EEOL that promised equal treatment of genders, fearing that lifetime employment would preclude them from accomplishing traditional female obligations of being a good wife and mother. Once again, traditional values overpowered the efforts to achieve gender equality. The response to the Childcare Leave Law was similar. In this case men were unwilling to take up the leave, not wanting to hurt their masculinity by not working for a year. Overall, the two laws were not successful because the traditional ideas about family gender roles did not agree with the modern ideas about gender equality. 

            The seemingly uncompromising traditional values about women and men that prevent female empowerment in the workplace are due partly to the conservative ideas about family gender roles. Although legislatively matters can be handled and changed, it is on the societal level that these ideas must be altered and rethought. Until both women and men are ready to abandon their traditional ideas about their gender roles in society, increasing female participation in the workforce will remain a challenge.

 

Rina Azumi

Princeton University 

Powerful Women and Women Colleges

Mt. Holyoke

A lot of the blog posts have been about support, tips and help when it comes to internship, networking, and a full time job after graduation. Yet, the preparation for all of these great adventures and challenges start as early as our college choice. Most women choose a college education but a few of us choose a women’s college. Personally I chose a women’s college and have gained so much and here is why.

There have plenty of amazing and powerful women that have shaped the world. There are a lot of these women that graduated from women colleges (most of these colleges were also found by women): Hilary Clinton, Madeleine Albright, Emily Dickinson, Frances Perkins, Mona Sutphen, and Virginia Apgar just to name a few. There are a lot of statistics out there that support the great influence that women colleges have on their matriculated students.

Thinking about the correlation of women colleges and the amazing, powerful and strong women that graduate from these colleges, various relevant aspects come to mind. One that seems especially relevant in the industries that we have our sights set on. Only 2% of all women with four-year degrees graduate from women’s colleges, yet they occupy approximately 50% of the female-held positions in such traditionally male-dominated fields as medicine, law, and management.

Overall, there are different aspects that individuals retain from a women’s college education. A lot of us simply became more confident through being able to hold various leadership positions, being challenged by each other in a safe and very diverse environment and being able to choose male dominated fields while receiving a lot of support.

Yes, we have already chosen our given colleges for undergrad, yet it is important to remember that utilizing all of the tips that we have received from all the wonderful Campus Ambassadors all around the world and building a great network can truly get us anywhere, because along with our own power it is important to realize the assets of the women around us, as many women have done before us. So let’s all turn into Powerful Women.

Pia Matthes

Mount Holyoke College

£20 Million Decision

Lara Morgan

I think it’s a popular assumption that the biggest decisions in the business world are start-up decisions—questions on when, how, and on what basis to start a company.  For Lara Morgan, however, one of her biggest decisions dealt with the appropriate time to “bow out” and to actually part with the company that had brought her success.

Lara Morgan started Pacific Direct, a company centered on creating and distributing hotel products, at the age of 23.  She started the business with nothing, and quickly built it up over 17 years of, in her words, “relentless determination to be the best…in a highly competitive global marketplace”.  At the end of her time with them, she was able to sell the company for 20 million.

The bottom line here is that once she had built her company up, Lara was able to objectively recognize both its success and her personal need for something new.  Yet, she did not exactly “back down” or go out quietly- she knew what her company was worth and was able to obtain that even at the end.

So once we are successful figures in the business world, remember Lara—do not be afraid to sell.  Selling is not giving up, but rather, it is recognizing that you worked hard enough to create something worth selling.

Stephanie Wisner

Cornell University

Further Reading:  http://femaleentrepreneurassociation.com/2011/11/an-interview-with-lara-morgan-how-to-start-a-business-from-nothing-and-sell-it-for-20-million/

Self-Made and Successful: Samata Angel

Samata Angel

If anyone knows how to dream big it is Samata Angel.  A self-made entrepreneur, author, public speaker, and designer, Samata was the first British female to showcase her work during he New York Nolcha Fashion Week, and has received several awards, including Cosmopolitan magazine’s Future Fashion Star of 2008, ‘Black Women in Europe: Power List 2010’, and Red magazine’s ‘One to Watch: Top 20 women under the age of 30’.

Her secret?  To me, what stands out are Samata’s big goals, creativity, willingness to take every opportunity available to her, and most importantly—a hard work ethic.  Her beginnings were, after all, not much different than any average college graduate.  Samata received her undergraduate degree in Economics, Finance and Management, but used the opportunity of living in London to get involved in the fashion scene: working with designers and networking as much as possible.  This set her up after completing her undergraduate degree to work in leadership roles within the fashion industry, such as Head of PR for a Chelsea 3 floor boutique and Head of Marketing for a Japanese clothing label.  These experiences gave Samata the confidence to then launch her own company, Samata’s Muse, which she funded by working several other jobs.  Her secret to success once started, in her words, was “work[ing] hard” and following through on “great opportunities”, including working for clients such as Jennifer Lopez and Dawn Richards, and being featured in publications such as LOOK, PRIDE, and Fashion Capital.

To me, the most remarkable thing about Samata’s story is not really her success once started—it is her humble beginnings.  Samata began as an average woman with no special position or connections—she had to rely on her talent, her instincts, and her work ethic to achieve the success that she ultimately did.

I think the message to take away from this is not her ending point and how “cool” her achievements are (although they are), but rather, to realize that we too have the potential to “be” Samata.  Maybe we will not achieve the status that she has, but until that point, we can give it our all—we can build ourselves up as much as physically possible: we can pursue our passions, grow our talents, build connections.  We can learn, but then we have to leap—that part is unavoidable.

But first, we must allow our “big dreams” to guide us.

Stephanie Wisner

Cornell University

Further Reading:

http://www.lulu.com/blog/2009/04/lulu-author-samata-angel/

http://samataangel.com/about/

Karolinska Institute: A Campus Event Preview

Hong Tran

As you all know, one of the responsibilities of Campus Ambassadors is to plan and host one event at respective campus. Our event at Karolinska Institute focuses on promoting women in leader positions within the Life Science Industry and the Healthcare Sector. Our objective is to inspire and motivate students at Karolinska Institute to take on leadership, but also to create a networking platform for young and experienced leaders.

Karolinska Institute is an old and well-known medical university in Sweden, yet it remains without student activities that establish a stable contact between the academy and the industry. We believe that our event will play an important role in changing the current situation. Women in Leadership 2013 highlights female leadership, which is a much discussed topic in Sweden. The organization Life Science Sweden has noted that extremely few women are sitting on the Life Science companies’ boards.

Five successful women are invited to speak. These women have accomplished a lot and are willing to share with the young students about their career stories, their experiences and how it is to be female leader.  The event will take place on the 26th September. We are working fully on marketing and  sponsorship. We aim to reach out to all students at Karolinska Institute. Traditional marketing materials such as flyers and posters are used but also the modern ones such as e-mails and social media. The participants could also register via QR-code, if they own a smart phone.

Sponsorship is possible in two different forms – product support or economical support. For example, if the sponsor is contributing with product samples, these product samples will be handed out together with flyers. We believe that such a marketing strategy could help to increase the excitement of the event.

Regarding the economical sponsorship, one should keep in mind that companies in most cases only get involved if there is a mutual exchange. They also want to know what they get for their support, so prepare a sponsor protocol to hand over.

It was a few short words about our campus event at Karolinska Institute. I am ending my blog post by wishing you all good luck with your own campus event.

Hong Tran

Karolinska Institute

Further Reading:

http://lifescience.idg.se/2.1763/1.471303/ovanligt-fa-kvinnor-i-life-science-bolagens-styrelser

http://ki.se/

Women Take the Lead in the Luxury Goods Market

Cartier

It is evident that gender inequality still exists in today’s society, and especially in the corporate world.  However, there have been slight changes visible in the workforce in comparison to a decade ago, and now is a good time for women to lean in and express their talents and ambitions. An example of an industry that involves successful female leaders is the Luxury Consumer Goods Market. Luxury Daily has listed the top 25 executive leaders in its inaugural Luxury Women to Watch 2013 list. All of these women share the same qualities such as dedication to craft, consumer focus, ambition, leadership potential, educator and role model.  These qualities are all great ingredients to create ambitious women in business to take on leadership roles. “It sounds so simple, but it takes a lot of courage and conviction to focus the organization on fewer opportunities so you can really do them well,” states Denise Incandela, Chief Marketing officer of Saks Fifth Avenue, New York. Executives who made the list represent companies such as Oscar de la Renta, Bergdorf Goodman, Saks, Fairmont Hotels and Retail, and L’Oreal. To these ladies, luxury is not a job but a passion. “This is a field full of strong and powerful women,” said Cannon Hodge, social media manager for Bergdorf Goodman, New York.

The work these women do is not easy; often it can be a challenge maintaining the luxury brand’s mystique while adapting to evolving market behavior. Erika Bearman, Senior Vice President of global communications at Oscar de la Renta, believes that social media is a great tool that will attract more women to the luxury business. The luxury market is definitely evolving and improving. Pam Danziger, President of Unity Marketing, states what she likes most about her job is that it is never boring. But women need to be prepared to take on jobs with more decision-making authorities, so they need solid educational foundation as well as strong work experience.

Bergdorf Goodman’s social media manager, Cannon Hodge, quotes “this is a field full of strong and powerful women.”  Ms. Hodge’s job involves connecting her company’s legacy with the world. Challenges such as balance can be something that Ms. Hodge comes across, but she states that it is the fast-pace that keeps her on her toes.

One of my most inspirational women in business who has had great success in the luxury consumer goods market is Tory Burch. In a recent interview she states “women should be just as ambitious as men and should be proud of it.”  I believe this is a very important and strong statement and many females who would like to lead in the industry should live by this quote. It is very interesting to see how the luxury industry will grow within the upcoming years, and it is a magnificent industry to have a look out for powerful and ambitious female leaders.

Setareh Rahimian

McMaster University, Canada

Further Reading:

http://www.womensluxuryguild.com/site/index.php/en/contact-wlg

http://www.luxurydaily.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Luxury-Women-to-Watch-2013_7-2.pdf

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWpASrqiD_M