Events & Media

Entrepreneur Has High Praise for Bren Students at Sustainatopia

Bren School students who presented their priorities to business environmental officers at the Sustainatopia event in Los Angeles (from left): Casey Garrett (MESM 2015), Niko Hartline (MESM 2016), Stephanie Karba (MESM 2016), USC student, Katherine Tejano (MESM 2015), Shreya Sonar (MESM 2016), Jennifer Macy (MESM 2015), Diana Rosenberg (MESM 2015), Lisa Campbell (MESM 2015), Jessica Perkins (Bren School PhD student), Eric Cerritani (MESM 2015)

Representing millennial thought leaders, 10 Bren School students and one student from the University of Southern California presented their views on sustainability at the 2015 Sustainatopia conference, hosted in Los Angeles from May 27-30 by Context, a leading consultantcy in corporate sustainability strategy.

Context founder Simon Propper sought out the views of "future thought leaders" by inviting 10 students — 10 of whom are from the Bren School — to share their ideas about what they would like to see in terms of sustainability practices from leading companies. The students submitted their ideas in a series of two-minute "micro-presentations" delivered to an audience comprising mainly business sustainability officers."

"If sustainability really is in the DNA of this most important generation, "wrote Propper, "then these are the future thought leaders. So what are they expecting to see from leading companies in the next five years?

Attending the event was serial entrepreneur and former Forbes magazine cover subject Anthony Zolezzi, who had the following to say about the students in a June 2 post to his blog:

“Then there was another panel, right after ours, and that was the icing on the cake… And it wasn’t just one of the accomplished individuals or speakers on that panel that got my attention. It was the 10 graduate students — from UC Santa Barbara and one from USC — that were on the panel. The goal of the panel was for them to speak about what this group, representing 93 million millennials, wants from companies and what problems we should be trying to solve for them.

They opened with a two-minute outline of their individual ask of big companies, which was incredibly well done. The list of the 10 graduate students, as I interpreted it, is as follows: Transparency, reporting cradle to grave, water-related risk, food waste, supply chain shared value reporting, sustainable finance versus donations, sustainability as a corporate goal, transparency through contractors, responsibility for health of the customers, and finally, transparency on microbeed pollution.

The basic ask of this millennial team was pretty simple, “Just tell us everything we want to know about the product.” Such as, what are the ingredients or materials? From where are they sourced? Are there any materials that are toxic? How are they disposed of? Basically, just be open and honest.

The passion of these millennials, with such a simple ask of companies — be open and honest on everything you do — was intoxicating. I felt like I had just been plugged into an energizer because my panel’s passion on investing for social impact plus the passion and excitement of these 10 graduate students was so wonderful and fulfilling. I thought it really doesn’t get any better than this.”

Watch a short video, made by a Context representative and containing snippets from the Bren students' presentations; it is currently posted on the company's home page.