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Of Pine Trees, Coffee & Sustainability

Posted Jan 11 2010 7:31am

I spent last week in Portland, Oregon trying to cast as big a net as possible to land a job that incorporates strategy and sustainability when I'm done with my MBA in May (and after IMCDA of course!). I had high hopes for this trip as I had created a vision that Portland was the epicenter for the companies that will make an impact in the future. I firmly believe in stakeholder theory as the road map for profitability and believe that the days of focusing on short term quarterly returns are over. After 7 meetings in a two day period my expectations were met and belief that firms that use stakeholder theory to guide them are the right fit for me was solidified.

I woke on Tuesday at my sister's house in West Linn to go for a run. I was excited to go out for a run in shorts and my wind jacket. The weather was perfect for a 70 minute run, about 50 degrees, a little damp and barely any wind. I was cranking out a 9:05 pace in zone 2 and an 8:25 pace in zone 3 and just loving life. The view was breathtaking, hills covered in evergreens, a raging river next to me, and everything was just so lushly green. I ran past farms, houses, horses and people. Each person I passed was happy to smile at me, the road construction crew gave me a wave and I had a smile on my face the entire time.

Later that day, after I met with my sister at her kitchen (she's a chef) I headed into downtown Portland to find a coffee shop. Portland has no shortage of shops that serve one of my favorite vices. Maybe that's why I get along so well with Mary Eggers, we share a common passion – coffee! I drink a lot of it and am always in search of the perfect brew. I was slightly disappointed by Stumptown coffee which has a reputation as Portland's best, but having spent close to 3 hours in the shop I probably shouldn't complain.

On Thursday my networking meetings began, I won't list all the companies I met with but was insanely excited by the thought process out there. Companies were focused on doing well, while doing good; community involvement was a priority for each company I met with and each is looking to source the least harmful materials possible for their products. As I explained some of the projects I'm doing at Darden the people I was meeting were enthusiastic about our mutual interests and excited that MBAs are beginning to see the light.

It was incredibly refreshing to be able to speak with individuals about sustainability and my theories on business without having to convince them of the benefits of it. The managers I met with didn't look at me like I had 7 heads when I said "we need to refocus on businesses responsibility to the social contract," and shared my visions on how to make a company profitable. By the end of the week I had made inroads with some giants of industry, companies that are growing fast and boutiques that are trying to create change. I came back to VA about to start Q3 energized knowing that there are businesses out there seeking to do things in a better way.

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