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‘It pays to be nice’

Over 140 students and business leaders flocked to attend the Mills College Center for Socially Responsible Business’s first annual conference Apr. 10 in the Student Union.

Held by the Lorrey I. Lokey Graduate School of Business, this is the first conference the Center has hosted.

Titled “It Pays to be Nice: Economic Models to Encourage Corporate Social and Environmental Responsibility,” the event’s lectures sought to contradict current business trends that emphasize efficiency and profit over community development.

Keynote speakers taught participants how businesses can provide economic incentives to encourage activities such as investing in green buildings and employee volunteerism.

“We’re bringing methods to the table where there was no information there at all,” said Katie Arkema, the first speaker and ecologist with the Natural Capital Project.

The Project focuses on ecological conservation in partnership with Stanford University, The Nature Conservancy Fund, and the World Wildlife Fund.

The Nature Conservancy Fund is a program that seeks to protect ecologically important lands and water. The World Wildlife Fund uses scientific knowledge to preserve ecosystems and is focused on protecting endangered animals and plants.

Stephen Bushnell, the senior director of the Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company of Allianz, spoke about economic incentives for green-friendly, energy and water efficient buildings.

He also gave an honorable mention of the campus’ Natural Sciences Building as a green building because it earned “platinum” certification, which is the highest rating in environmental design and construction.

“We believe that it doesn’t cost more to be green,” said Bushnell in an interview after his lecture. “Business and private individuals can do a lot to improve energy and water efficiency by taking simple, common-sense actions.”

Bushnell mentioned things such as green buildings having more windows, which help students concentrate better.

He said that this gives them higher test scores.

Other lecturers included Julie Trell, head of Global Integrated Philosophy for the Foundation.

Trell spoke about social incentives in youth development with the youth entrepreneur program, BizAcademy, which offers a hands-on program for at-risk youth to learn about the business world.

Trell spoke about integrating volunteer work by giving employees six paid days to volunteer with local organizations, which increases these organizations’ productivity.

Lorien Rice, assistant professor of Economics, also attended the conference and praised the event as a whole.

“I think this topic aligns with the mission of the College in creating women leaders,” Rice said. “These issues really need women’s leadership.”

Other participants said the conference presented economic opportunities for future business leaders.

“I think it is a tremendous success because it’s really hopeful,” said Isabelle Sjahsam, alumna and Artistic director for Artface.

“It is inspiring to me as an ecology-minded artist and business woman.”

Philip Gordon, the director for the Center who came up with the title, helped organize the conference. He said he is satisfied with the conference turnout.

“I was pleased [with] the professional people who were willing to come from a diverse cross-section of business,” he said. “Mills is a place to partner if they are inspired to come and learn to be environmentally and socially responsible in business.”

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