CEO highlights sustainability

The Institue for Leadership and Entrepreneurship invited students, faculty and business representatives for the first IMPACT Speaker Series of the semester on Wednesday, Sept. 7. The weekly series provides an opportunity for entrepreneurially minded individuals to learn about a variety of topics, ranging from new innovative management practices to the emerging business models shaping our world.

This week’s speaker was Diana Rivenburgh, CEO and President of Strategic Imperatives, Inc.

In this presentation, Rivenburgh focused on the importance of creating a culture of economic, social and environmental success, encouraging businesses not only to make more sustainability-conscious decisions, but to engage everyone from the senior leaders of major companies and their employees to Tech students in the process of strategy development for achieving long-term resource productivity.

“There is such a great need to engage students in [sustainability] activities on this campus…not only is that an opportunity to do something and make a difference now, it’s also a great experience as you go forward into the work world,” Rivenburgh said.

On a business level, Rivenburgh emphasizes the necessity of a two-way dialogue in promoting motivated individuals to use their resources and creativity to the fullest.

She believes that integrating sustainability into culture requires the involvement of companies and communities alike because ideas must be envisioned and voiced in both formal and informal settings before they can be implemented in a way that positively affects society as a whole.

“Sustainability drives engagement in tremendous ways, and it does this primarily because people feel that their work is meaningful…that their work makes a difference,” Rivenburgh said.

Shifting business thinking in the direction of sustainability is not without its challenges, however. It entails the investment of valuable capital and significant changes within companies and  requires long-term commitment and dramatic changes within the business model.

In order to address this issue, Rivenburgh highlights the idea that transforming the organizational design model of businesses to align their practices with a vision for lasting growth, in ways such as establishing committees for sustainability, is a critical aspect of generating a lucrative results.

“Those companies that started early on before the recession have said that [sustainability] is one of the key things that has helped them to get through this time period in a way because they are operating more efficiently and effectively…they have engaged people throughout their organization and up and down their supply chain,” Rivenburgh said.

Inspiring conversation encourages a means of collecting suggestions, which, in turn, creates incentives for the investment of time and effort in shifting business thinking. As a result, she notes that sustainability leads to profitable outcomes for the companies that buy into it, serving to compensate investment and to reward the right behaviors.

According to Rivenburgh, leadership is one of the most important aspects of constructing a strong sustainable culture. Managing strategies for reducing waste and promoting renewable resources creates leverage for change, which can be employed by anyone.

The idea that leadership can come from all levels within businesses and the community resonated with Tech students at the event in particular.

“You don’t hear a lot of speakers talk about increasing the involvement of everyone, and [saying that] you don’t have to be a CEO to think about sustainability…you can talk about it with your student organization or just be a bright, innovative student,” said Kia Andrews, a third-year BA major.


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