Creating Social Value Blog / Corporate Social Relevance

Breaking Through Sustainability Assumptions

By Ryan Lupberger, Babson Undergraduate Student and Scholar at The Lewis Institute.


Assumptions. We all have them and they are a key part of our perception and conversations. Sitting in an FME meeting room, brainstorming for our first business, we came up with a host of ideas. We thought about gels that clean computer screens, organic food boxes, student-made protein shakes, lighter t-shirts, and many more; but when we started talking about sustainably creating the products, we brought in a lot of outside assumptions.

We talked about making the products by sourcing them through China and keeping a low price point or finding a sustainable solution. Our assumptions were that consumers would see the higher price and then purchase a cheaper competitor. Now, in the world, there is also a powerful movement in responsible businesses that have found sustainable solutions and attracted conscious consumers. Companies like Patagonia, The North Face, Nisolo, Jack’s Soaps, and others are proving the concept that you can make huge profit while doing good. In addition, responsibly produced products don’t necessarily have to be more expensive to make. Companies like Pepsi have actually reduced water use by 20% and thus have save more than 17 billion liters of water and $15 million in water costs. It can actually be less expensive to be sustainable. Our assumptions were controlling our decision making ability despite not being necessarily true.

The same conversations are being had in boardrooms of corporations all around the world. As supply chains become more transparent, companies discover more security and long term profitability in sustainability, and can begin to quantify the cost of wasted resources; what conversations can we have to break our traditional assumptions?

The root of conversations is conversare. Conversare loosely meant to grow or change together. What if we could go back to the root of conversation and be able to talk to grow and change together. Behavior change starts with these conversations and we need to be having dialogue that breaks the dichotomy between growth and profitability of a business and sustainability and responsibility of a business. True change comes from groups of people who start reaching consensus and then move forward together. We need to move forward together and start solving big problems.

Our conversations started in our FME classroom. Classroom changemakers who were passionate about sustainability touched on combining profitability and sustainability. Then, our professors guided us through potential solutions and ideas around the topics. Throughout the discussion, we grew and changed as a class. Anyone has the power to catalyze a conversation that can lead to change.

On that note, we want to invite all of the Babson community to try out a Good Business Friday. Every Friday, from 12:00-1:30pm in the Global Reynolds Lounge, The Lewis Institute gathers speakers related to “good business” and students for game-changing conversations. We want to welcome you to come challenge your assumptions, meet amazing speakers, and find a group of people who are ready to make an impact in this world.