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Gary Hirshberg, CEO of Stonyfield, Urges MBA Students to Ask Why Not?

Gary Hirshberg, CEO of Stonyfield

My colleague, Lane Jost, did an amazing job covering the 2010 Net Impact Conference in Ann Arbor this weekend.  As a first time Net Impact Conference attendee, I wore the hat of a MBA student instead of a reporter following the Corporate Impact Track and learning as much as I could about integrating CSR concepts into core business strategy and cooperation between the public and private sectors in regards to sustainability.  However, the highlight of the conference for me, and many fellow emerging business leaders with a conscious, had to be Gary Hirshberg‘s keynote speech on Saturday morning where he urged an auditorium filled with energetic MBA students to ask Why Not?

– Create a business without negative externalities.

– Grow an idea that started with no supply or demand to a business boasting $360 million in annual sales.

– Turn waste into energy to help run plants.

Gary Hirshberg has done all this and more by asking, why not?  Why can’t a business prosper without causing harm?  Why can’t a business treat its employees, customers, clients, supply chain and yes, even cows, with dignity and respect?  Why can’t a business do well by doing good?

It hasn’t always been easy, as Gary admitted, pointing to Stonyfield’s first seven years struggling to make ends meet.  And there is still much to do in making healthy, organic food available to all consumers at a reasonable price.  But Gary’s inspiring story, energetic speech and obvious passion for his product permeated at least one aspiring business leader; and the long, standing ovation he received leads me to believe I was not the only business student who walked away from the Net Impact Conference thinking, why not?

To learn more about Gary and Stonyfield’s story, read it here.

Image Credit:  Tammy Green (aka Zesmerelda) via Flickr under CC license.

Written by Emily DeMasi

Emily McKinin DeMasi is a 2011 MBA/ MA Public Policy candidate and Peace Corps Fellow at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA. Her thesis work concerns Corporate Social Responsibility in the United States. She also works as a Research Fellow at Bridgeway Capital, a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) in downtown Pittsburgh. Emily has worked as an Associate in a Private Equity Placement Firm in NY and as a Water and Sanitation Volunteer in Ivory Coast, West Africa. She hopes to combine her business background with her passion for development and inspire others in the fields of Sustainability and CSR.

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