Category Archives: MBA

Sustainable Big Macs: The plan for a leaner, greener McDonald’s

McDs_Langert1Imagine going into a McDonald’s and learning that all of the beef used in their hamburgers was sustainably sourced. Not only that, but the restaurants were using less energy, recycling more and adding more fruits and vegetables to their menu. Seem far-fetched? Not when you learn that the company, famous for its fast, low-cost food items, has been developing sustainability initiatives for the past three years. Enter Bob Langert, McDonald’s Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility and keynote speaker at Foster’s Fourth Annual Idea Lab. Speaking to an audience full of MBA students and Puget-sound area business leaders, Langert talked about supply chain, consumer buy-in, and championing sustainable beef at the home of the Big Mac.

Having labeled McDonald’s as a company in transition, Langert hopes that their involvement in the sustainability movement– which he thinks is “too small [and] too niche”– will jumpstart supplier and consumer buy-in. McDonald’s has developed a plan, dubbed “Our Journey Together. For Good”, to make their menu both healthier and sustainable. The plan’s goals include:

  • To begin serving sustainably sourced beef by 2016
  • Add more fruits and vegetables by 2020
  • Reduce fat, sugar and overall calories in their food
  • Provide 100 percent sustainably sourced coffee
  • Reduce restaurant energy consumption by 20 percent
  • Increase in-restaurant recycling by 50 percent.

To achieve these goals, McDonald’s first priority is to address the supply chain—which Langer believes accounts for 80 percent of the corporation’s environmental impact. While aggressive, this certainly isn’t the first time the Golden Arches has addressed food sourcing.McDs_audienceClose

Dressed in chicken suits, Greenpeace activists staged protests in European McDonald’s restaurants with the hopes of raising awareness of deforestation in Brazil due to soya production in the Amazon. As it turned out, Amazonian soya was a major source of soy for McDonald’s food products. Surprising cynics (and probably a few Greenpeace protestors), Langert met with the activists, even traveling to the Amazon with them to get a first-hand picture of the devastation. Within three months, Langert says, McDonald’s was able to negotiate a moratorium on Amazon soya. Reflecting on the experience, Langert said, “[I’m] proud of the work, not proud that it came through a crisis.” The soya-based deforestation problem was a watershed moment for McDonald’s, driving the company’s other environmental initiatives like responsibly sourcing their coffee and their fish—100 percent of which comes from sustainable fisheries. With a focus now placed squarely on their beef suppliers, McDonald’s hopes to do the same for the millions of hamburgers they sell each day.

From enlisting the consulting expertise of famed animal science doctor and autistic activist Dr. Temple Grandin to honing in on their message, McDonald’s approach to the beef industry has been multi-pronged. Recalling his keynote speech at the first annual Ranch Sustainability Forum earlier this year, Langert reiterated the importance of coming together as a community to be more environmentally responsible and forward-thinking. “I kept saying we’re on the same page. We want sustainable beef to sell more beef.” However, Langert knows that sustainability isn’t limited to suppliers. Pointing to the trouble their European restaurants are having convincing their customers to recycle (crew members are manually separating garbage from recycling), Langert acknowledges there’s still a long way to go. When asked if it’s possible that customers are fatigued by sustainability messaging, Langert half agreed, stating that while McDonald’s Chief Brand Officer is coming up with “disruptive ways to reach consumers” he knows that what they’re doing right now is not enough. He added, “The plan right now is not consumer-centric. Our time now is being spent within the supply chain.” That’s not for nothing. Langert said that he continues to be astounded by the progress made on the supply side, stating that “suppliers discussing sustainability is a big deal.”

McDs_qaThere’s no doubt for Langert that McDonald’s has a challenging road ahead to achieve total supplier and consumer buy-in, stating, “When you try to develop something bold, there’s a lot of resistance.” However, Langert maintains that the folks at the Golden Arches are committed to taking sustainability beyond the “small and niche.” Within a few short years, McDonald’s may evolve in to paragon of environmental stewardship in the business world and possibly beyond. We’ll all just have to wait and see.

This event was co-sponsored by Foster’s Net Impact MBA club. Net Impact is a new generation of leaders who use their careers to tackle the world’s toughest problems. They put their business skills to work for good throughout every sector. By doing so, they show the world that it’s possible to make a net impact that benefits not just the bottom line, but people and planet too. Learn more about the club here.

$27,500 Awarded to Entrepreneurial Student Innovators

UW EIC 2014 Winners Korvata and NOVA Solar Window
UW EIC 2014 Winners Korvata and NOVA Solar Window

 

The annual UW Environmental Innovation Challenge (EIC), now in its sixth year, challenges interdisciplinary student teams to define an environmental problem, develop a solution, produce a prototype, and create a business summary that demonstrates the commercial viability of their product, process or service.

23 teams were selected to compete in the 2014 UW EIC. Each of these teams proved that students have the potential to address our most pressing environmental needs—alternative fuels,  recycling, solar power, water treatment—with novel solutions that have market potential. After pitching their innovations to a group of 170+ judges—investors, entrepreneurs, policy-makers, and experts from across sectors—the six teams with the highest scores were awarded up to $10,000 in prize money. Congratulations to this year’s winners:


$10,000 Grand Prize
Korvata (University of Washington)
Korvata has created a cutting edge alternative energy product that allows companies to mitigate their environmental impact by replacing the use of nitrous oxide as a whipped cream propellant.
(sponsored by the UW Center for Commercialization)
 
$5,000 Second Place Prize and $5,000 Clean Energy Prize
NOVA Solar Window (Western Washington University)
NOVA Solar Window combines the power producing capabilities of a solar panel with the utility of a traditional window. The utilization of transparent solar energy technology allows solar windows to provide renewable energy where traditional solar panels cannot.
(sponsored by Puget Sound Energy the UW Clean Energy Institute)
 
$2,500 Honorable Mentions
Loopool (Bainbridge Graduate Institute, Seattle Central Community College, University of Washington)
Loopool is reinventing the garment industry business model by creating a closed-loop supply chain, transforming reclaimed cotton garments and textiles into high-quality, bio-based fiber.
(sponsored by Starbucks) 

Salon Solids (University of Washington)
Salon Solids reduces the amount of plastic waste and hazardous chemical consumption that occurs with most hair products. Its six-ingredient shampoo and conditioner comes in solid form, eliminating the need for the preservatives necessary for a product with water in it, and its packaging is recyclable, biodegradable and does not contain plastic, further reducing waste.
(sponsored by Fenwick & West) 

Ionometal Technologies (University of Washington)
Ionometal Technologies has created a metal plating technique that allows for precise metal-on-metal deposition which can be used to repair gold test boards. The Ionometal printer prints metal plates that are smaller than can be seen with the naked eye.
(sponsored by WRF Capital)

 

Check out what guests, judges, and teams had to say about the 2014 UW EIC on Twitter: #UWEIC2014

MBAs sharpen consulting skills with local non-profits

ServiceCorp7MBAs at the Foster School are honing their consulting skills and giving back at the same time. The Net Impact Service Corps initiative matched teams of Foster students with local non-profits that needed assistance with a specific business problem. This year, 20 MBAs worked on projects with the YMCA and the Children’s Therapy Center, an organization that serves families of children with special needs.

Foster Net Impact, with the help of MBA Career Management, organized and brought together Social Venture Partners, McKinsey and Accenture around the Service Corps projects. Paul Shoemaker, executive director of Social Venture Partners (SVP) – an organization devoted to cultivating effective philanthropists and strengthening organizations that drive community change – provided preliminary contacts with local nonprofits needing strategic consulting help. Paul came to Foster to launch the Net Impact Service Corps initiative and discuss how MBA skills can be leveraged in ways that make a huge impact to nonprofits. McKinsey and Accenture played a key role in mentoring Foster students, helping them develop business models and consulting skills that were used in working with their clients.

ServiceCorp5During the course of the project, the MBAs attended seminars where Jun Kamata, a former McKinsey consultant now in charge of strategy at Nordstrom, presented models used by consultants on how to manage project workflow, manage client engagement, present data and make recommendations to clients. Mike Quinn of Social Venture Partners instructed students on how to navigate from the profit to non-profit world while building consulting skills with clients.

The student’s primary goal in working with each of the non-profits was to enhance their current effectiveness in the non-profit sector while also investigating opportunities to diversify the non-profits into opportunities that might support the core mission. For Children’s Therapy Center, the students helped the center develop a sales and marketing plan for products that would provide additional revenue opportunities for the organization. The students helped the YMCA develop a new donor strategy to increase annual funding.

As Jun Kamata, director of strategy at Nordstrom noted, this collaboration is a win for the nonprofits, for the students, and for the consulting firms. Nonprofits get needed help in developing their strategy and effectiveness, students get hands-on experience with some of the leading consulting firms in the world, and McKinsey and Accenture get the opportunity to mentor and engage with Foster students

ServiceCorp11According to Jon Botten, executive director of the Children’s Therapy Center, “We have been blown away by the commitment of the students! They asked probing questions, listened to our needs, generated quality ideas and delivered beyond our expectations. I can honestly say that we will be implementing many of their suggestions, and as a result, the children we serve will be that much closer to reaching their full potential.”

Foster students benefit too. John Czerniak, a first-year MBA who accepted a McKinsey summer internship, stated, “As a part of Net Impact’s Service Corps program, I have had the opportunity to work with some amazing people – including our client, Children’s Therapy Center, and Social Venture Partners, McKinsey, and of course, my Foster teammates. I have been able to use the skills and classroom experiences from my MBA to influence a real business decision for an organization making a big difference in peoples’ lives. In addition to the wonderful parts of the project, we have faced several challenges that only come with working on a real-world project. Working through these challenges with my team and client was one of the most valuable parts of my Foster experience thus far. As I go into consulting for my internship this summer, I’m confident that my Service Corps experience will serve me well in working with clients and solving complex business problems.”

When the path isn’t always clear: Congresswoman Suzan DelBene on leadership

“A key part of leading is deciding. Deciding with imperfect data. Deciding when there isn’t always a path that’s clear.”

Congresswoman Suzan DelBene says she came to this particularly astute conclusion while working as a youth football referee. Like her positions at Microsoft and Drugstore.com (she served as vice-president) it provided her with two essential lessons; 1) the importance of decision making when there are still unknowns and 2) a leader must always provide a vision and a path forward.  Further qualifying this belief, the congresswoman stated, “With any organization, people are most effective when they have that vision going forward and they know where they’re heading and they know why they’re heading in that direction.”

A Foster MBA Alum, Congresswoman DelBene says she was inspired to run for Congress during her time at Global Partnerships, a micro-finance non-profit that provides loans to small business owners in Latin America and the Caribbean. After her first run for Congress in 2010 (in which she was unsuccessful) she was appointed by then governor Christine Gregoire to serve as the Director of Washington state’s Department of Treasury. In 2012, she successfully ran for a congressional seat in the newly drawn 1st district. Sitting on the House Judiciary and House Agriculture Committees, DelBene now deals with issues such as copyright laws, biotechnology and more.

Using terminology such as ROI (return on investment), the congresswoman routinely uses her business experience when approaching policy-making. Pointing to the seemingly unending federal budget debate, DelBene believes that too many of her colleagues are plagued by short-term thinking. She argues that Congress should approach budgeting concerns like successful CEOS, focusing on investment and long-term strategy. She points to the indelible benefits and returns from federal programs that invest in early learning, unemployment insurance, research and infrastructure as examples.

During her time at the podium, the congresswoman also stressed the importance of being good stewards of policy and citizen engagement, urging audience members to work in conjunction with business and community leaders to pressure Congress in to action.

Watch some highlights below:

Congresswoman Suzan DelBene was one of UW Foster School of Business Dean Jim Jiambalvo’s guest speakers at the annual Leaders to Legends Breakfast Lecture Series, which include notable leaders in an array of industries from greater Seattle and around the country.

You’re in charge–now what?

EMBA Panel
Left to right: EMBA student Christy Bermensolo and alums Vetri Vellore, Kevin Conroy, and René Ancinas shared insights at the Forum on Leadership and the Executive MBA.

Three Foster Executive MBA alumni and one current student, all of whom are CEOs at mid-career, shared their experiences on the challenges and rewards of leadership with an attentive audience of students, prospective students and alumni on January 29.

The four came to their leadership roles in different ways. Kevin Conroy (EMBA 2004), president and founder of Blue Rooster, has been self-employed since 1990 and has started several companies. René Ancinas (EMBA 2009), president and CEO at Port Blakely Companies, and Christy Bermensolo (EMBA 2015), CEO at Engineered Software, Inc., assumed leadership of family-owned companies fairly recently–Christy just last year. Vetri Vellore (EMBA 2006), CEO and co-founder at Chronus Corporation, started his company in 2007 after a successful 14-year career at Microsoft.

René and Christy found getting comfortable in the leadership role especially challenging. Both said the advice and guidance they received from mentors inside and outside their organizations, including EMBA classmates, had been tremendously helpful. They both quickly realized their responsibilities required the ability to manage change. For René, the challenge was growth–unusual for a family business, he said. For Christy, it was the need to adopt a style of management different from her parents’ intensely hands-on approach.

All the panelists said finding mentors who offer sound advice and counsel was a key priority, no matter how long they had been in the lead. Kevin spoke about his recent experience recruiting a board of directors, and how much he had learned in the process of preparing to take his business to the next level. René looked to his board, experienced staff members and colleagues in the Young Presidents Organization. Velore sought out executives who he considered 3-5 years ahead of him in their development.

Christy offered some insight into the reason all these leaders had chosen to enroll in Foster’s Executive MBA Program. Preparing to assume her new role, Christy–an engineer by training and analytical by nature–developed a spreadsheet listing expertise that she figured she would need in order to handle the CEO job effectively. She quickly realized her list closely matched the curriculum of the Executive MBA Program. That made one of her first big decisions an easy one.

$120,000 awarded to student-led startups

JonesPresentation2014_ZGirls2
Z Girls co-presidents Libby Ludlow and Jilyne Higgins present their progress to a panel of judges

The Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship’s Jones + Foster Accelerator is a TechStars-like program that helps student-led startups get off the ground.

This year, five teams completed the six-month accelerator program, identifying and meeting milestones with the guidance of top entrepreneurs, lawyers and investors from Seattle’s entrepreneurial community.  From July 2013 to February 2014 they worked to build their teams, develop their services or technologies, get their products to market, and raise early-stage funding.

On February 4, the five teams made final presentations to a panel of judges and were awarded up to $25,000 in follow-on funding to pursue their next set of milestones.

  • PolyDropPolyDrop manufactures additives that transform regular coatings (think paint) into conductive coatings that dissipate static electricity and prevent interference caused by electric current flow.  PolyDrop has been awarded a Commercialization Gap Fund grant of $50,000 and a National Science Foundation STTR grant of $225,000, providing the funds necessary for 2014 operations and develop a prototype proving the viability of their product.
  • PureBluePure Blue Technologies, a water treatment technology company that provides visible light photo disinfection and desalination technology, is currently finalizing a license with the UW Center for Commercialization. The company has negotiated lab space with Ondine biomedical and has a term sheet for up to $1.5 million in equity funding, which will give them 18 months of runway to cover additional research and development and get them to the pilot stage.
  • ZGirlsZ Girls educates female athletes ages 11-14 on the mental and emotional skills important in sports and life. The company has received a $100,000 convertible note, raised $50,000 to provide scholarships for girls who demonstrate need, and hired 27 program leaders (all college or pro-level female athletes). In the last six months 182 girls have gone through Z Girls’ Seattle-based programs. (Check out Z Girls’ promotional videos on their website!)
  • StudentRNDStudentRND runs programs aimed at educating students (middle-school through college) about programming and engineering.  The nonprofit has created an advisory board, raised over $135,000 in sponsorships, and put together an operations plan that includes hosting 20 Code Days in Spring 2014.
  • LuckyStepsLuckySteps, a wellness program for companies and their employees, has raised $30,000 in the past six months. The company is working with a UW Human Centered Design and Engineering group on a usability study and has run beta tests with four prospective clients in order to prove its business model and pricing structure. Lucky Steps plans to wow the judges in this year’s UW Business Plan Competition.