Hannah Stone, BSC Associate
Current Degree Program: Undergraduate Poole College of Management – Business Administration.
Previous Degrees: Associate’s of Arts from Wake Technical Community College.
Hometown: Houston, TX.
Areas of Interest in Sustainability: Sustainable business management and administration.
What does business sustainability mean to you? What do you think sustainability should mean to businesses?
At its core, sustainability to me is about doing what is right for what is around you, even though it may not be easy. Specifically, in business, this can look like investing in protecting the environment, adopting ethical and environmental regulations for suppliers, and creating and enforcing policies that tangibly value a company’s workers. There may be ways for businesses to cut corners and reduce costs by skipping over these areas, but to be sustainable is to make decisions that result in more positive impacts and minimize the negative.
What sustainability challenge would you most like to solve?
In my lifetime, I would like to be a part of a shift in how companies view and treat their employees. I’ve had personal experiences with companies who treat their employees as disposable and have seemed not to consider investing in retaining good workers and showing them they are valued as worthwhile. Creating an environment where employees feel valued and management strives to foster good working conditions (physical, mental, and emotional) can be costly, but I want it to become an obvious and common principle adopted by the majority of companies. Spending money on your employees in the right ways increases the value of a company, and should be viewed as a beneficial investment rather than a bothersome cost.
Who do you admire for championing positive change through business?
One corporation I personally think deserves recognition for sustainability efforts in business is Starbucks. It’s true, their recent policy attempting to phase out straws from their locations may have a relatively negligible effect on ocean plastic pollution, but I believe the example they are setting has a massive impact. The influence they exert in the global market means other businesses pay attention to what Starbucks does, and by demonstrating in a tangible way that sustainability is much more than a goal on a poster they are showing the world, consumers, investors, and customers, that sustainability is something we all can and should contribute to.
Moving forward, how do you plan to use business as a force for good?
As a BSC Associate, I want to work with the B Corp Clinic to learn how to guide companies in remodeling their systems, policies, and business structures to weave sustainability into the identity of the business. Whether this plays out in my future as a formal role in sustainability strategy or simply as an employee seeking to find ways to push my company of employment towards business sustainability in small ways, I want my career in business to focus on developing a culture that values sustainable business practices on the same level as profitability.
What do you think are some challenges with sustainable businesses or becoming a sustainable business?
I think one of the challenges for businesses seeking to become more sustainable is to reverse the mindset that the focus on sustainability and an impressively profitable company are mutually exclusive. A couple of years ago I naively believed that for a company to be extremely profitable that had to be the principal and only focus; that all resources and strategy should be poured into generating more sales, achieving cheaper production, cheaper labor, etc. I now know that sustainability can be woven into the goals of the company while simultaneously enhancing the appeal of their product and creating value for the organization in many ways, not just in regards to sales.
What’s your advice for fellow students who might be interested in sustainability, but don’t know where to start?
If students are curious about sustainability but have no clue where to start finding information, I think a great place to start is to reach out to anyone they know who is passionate about/involved with sustainability. Talking to an actual person can initially be more informative and interesting than just reading a book. If there isn’t such a person in their life, then joining Net Impact could be a great way to not only learn more but also get involved on campus. But as always, books, podcasts, and events are always an excellent way to expand knowledge and delve deeper into almost any subject!