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    Net Impact: How Major Companies Are on a ‘Path to Purpose’ for Better Values

    As there’s a push for individuals to find happiness beyond their paycheck, companies are facing a similar moral questioning.

    As I began reading Ariana Huffington’s Thrive right before the Net Impact conference, the similarities between Thrive and impact in business became more apparent. Huffington provides countless ways to be happier including a pet to the power of meditation. She proposes that we measure our happiness beyond our income. For example, did you know that volunteering can increase your satisfaction as much as if you went from a $20,000 to $70,000 annual salary?

    Companies are traditionally perceived as financially-driven and nonprofits as do-gooders, with minimal grey area in between. Net Impact and social entrepreneurs are quickly changing that notion, with an emphasis on using business skills for social and environmental issues.

    In Atlanta, Net Impact’s annual conference hosted students and professionals focused on careers that go beyond the bottom line.

    Even the Net Impact offsite options focused on social issues, like the street art tour. One of the murals in the fourth ward is dedicated to education as a right for all humans. Our tour guide shared the irony that an MLK Jr statue went up a few weeks ago at the state Capitol, only yards away from a JB Gordon statue, previous governor and Confederate general.

    Net Impact Conference 2017 Highlights

    Although many of the topics discussed careers and building skills for those in school, many of the sessions included topics applicable to professionals.

    One big theme? Transparency. After a demand from consumers for knowing what’s in their products, industries are responding. Take fashion. With a notoriously wasteful and dangers working conditions industry, fast fashion is getting backlash. Eileen Fisher, Levis Strauss and Fashion Institute of Technology companies discussed how to be sustainable in such a trade.

    Philadelphia Sharing Experiences in Georgia 

    National brands with Philly roots participated in transparency talks. Kathy Cacciola, Senior Director of Environmental Sustainability of Aramark, talked about how large corporations are responding to consumer demands. For example, Aramark switched to cage-free eggs and gestation-free crate meat upon hearing demands for ethically sourced meat.

    Dave Stangis from Campbell Soup Company and 3M talked about being authentic with goals to consumers, future employees and more. At Campbell’s, the employees are interviewed based on the company values.

    Sustainability & Energy Manager at Saint Gobain and Net Impact Philadelphia Chapter President, Ryan Spies shared insight about sourcing materials at Saint-Gobain.

    Hearing from national changemakers

    Also on the Net Impact circuit were speakers like Seth Goldman, co-founder of Honest Tea and Executive Chairman of the board for Beyond Meat. Goldman reflected on creating an impactful company when others weren’t considering these ideas and expanding fair trade principles upon being acquired.

    Literally born into the Seventh Generation Family, Sustain co-founder Meika Hollender shared honest reflections about having accesses to resources as an entrepreneur – yet still struggling to gain capital as a female co-founder.

    As a consumer, it can be easy to criticize companies for not being 100% authentic. But many of the brands and sustainability managers discuss having to pick their battles.

    Take K-cups in the lunchroom. Although this seems like such a simple switch, company politics can make even changing coffee makers into a convoluted mess. What can well-intentioned employees do? As Sustainability Lead at Dassault Systems Asheen Phansey said, “It’s a ‘Pick Your Battles’ issue. Spend your energy and bandwidth on the battles whos victories would yield tangible results.”

    One of the best parts about Net Impact is hearing from these large companies as they grow to have corporate culture match their personal values. Many in sustainability roles genuinely understand the importance of their positions. And with people like that on the inside, we can be a little more hopeful on the outside.

    You might even say, companies may one day ‘Thrive’  beyond the bottom line.

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    Julie Hancher

    About Julie Hancher

    Julie Hancher is Editor-in-Chief of Green Philly, sharing her expertise of all things sustainable in the city of brotherly love. She enjoys long walks in the park with local beer and greening her travels, cooking & cat, Sir Floofus Drake.

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