“Business is the most powerful force on the planet.” —Gary Hirshberg, President and CEO, Stonyfield Farm.
On October 24, 2003, more than 200 Columbia students, faculty, staff and alumni attended the School’s second annual Social Enterprise Conference, “Doing Well by Doing Good: Achieving Blended Value in Business.” Ben Kornfeind ’04, who led the conference organizing team, said that the record attendance “would go a long way toward building the club’s brand image within Columbia and nationally.”
Among the conference highlights was the keynote speech by Gary Hirshberg (see photo), president and CEO of Stonyfield Farm. Founded in 1983, Stonyfield Farm is the world’s largest producer of organic yogurt and one of the top four yogurt brands in the United States.
Hirshberg said that social and environmental problems exist because businesses have not yet made solutions a priority. His company’s organic farming techniques are responsible for saving hundreds of New England family farms and returning over 50 different species of birds and mammals to the wild in Brazil, where the company buys its sugar. Since 1995, Stonyfield has reduced its carbon dioxide emissions per pound of product by 41 percent.
Breakout sessions offered participants the chance to explore alternative channels for “doing well by doing good.” Forty-five panelists and moderators led discussions on such topics as socially responsible investing, corporate social responsibility, volunteering on nonprofit boards, community development and careers in social enterprise.
“Venture Philanthropy: The Investor’s Approach to Grant-Making” explored the similarities between venture philanthropy and venture capital, while “Economic Empowerment in Harlem: A Look at Cross-Sector Alliances” focused on community regeneration.
The Managers in International Development Initiative, a component of the Social Enterprise Club, sponsored “Partnerships in International Development,” which highlighted the relationship between social and environmental responsibility and profitability.