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Making a Net Impact

Last weekend, the Net Impact annual conference came to Nashville. I, therefore, had the extreme privilege of speaking on one of the panels as thousands of business students and business leaders from around the world gathered to discuss ways that people can do business and do good at the same time.

In short, being at the conference was inspiring. During the opening keynote, as Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, spoke, and as audience members asked the right questions, I got an overwhelming feeling that yes, the world really can be saved.

After listening to Chouinard, I sat in on a discussion on how social entrepreneurs bring about change. Later that day, I listened to Carol Cone discuss how corporate social responsibility is fast becoming a standard in building a brand. Then, I met other students and leaders who are seeking to have a career and an impact.

The following day, I was joined by three others as we discussed how to spread the word about social movements to stir up interest and keep people committed to the cause. The room was packed with people both curious and committed to making the world a better place.

Regardless of how one feels about capitalism, big business or the free market, there's no doubt that the for-profit sector at least has the potential to right many wrongs in the world, even if it is responsible for many of them. The trick, of course, is to move from potential to action.

If anyone can do this, it's the group of people who amassed in Nashville last weekend. They're asking the right questions, discussing the right topics, and taking the right steps.

Here are some highlights from Chouinard's and Cone's talks:

  • Patagonia has 900 applicants for each job opening. This is a testament to the way they do business.
  • Chouinard thinks you can either be the best at what you do or you can be the biggest. But it's hard to be both. If you don't believe this, look at any of the top 50 restaurants in the world.
  • Quote: "I don’t see any reason for optimism. Our whole economy is based on consumption and discarding." – Chouinard
  • Quote: "Forget about changing the world. Change yourself." – Chouinard
  • Quote: "Nonstrategic marketing is just wallpaper." – Cone
  • According to Cone, Millinnials are the most demanding generation regarding CSR.
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