13th Annual Net Impact Conference – November 10-13, 2005


Net Impact, an organization with a network of more than 13,000 new-generation leaders committed to using the power of business to improve the world, held its 13th Annual Conference at the Stanford Graduate School of Business on November 10-13, 2005.  As a board member of this truly incredible organization, I will evidence my bias in this posting, but the Conference, with more than 1,200 attendees, the majority of whom are graduate students from many of the best business schools from across the country, was undeniably an overwhelming success and an inspiration to attendees as well as the broader community.

Former Vice President Al Gore kicked off the Conference with an engaging and inspirational keynote address, “Earth in the Balance Sheet.”  Gore said that a traditional, limited perspective of market fundamentals has denigrated our abilities to make decisions about the values that are most important to us — such as the environment, health care, and personal fulfillment — but that don’t easily fit into a supply-demand equation.  He used the metaphor of the electromagnetic spectrum, our almost exclusive focus on the relatively small visible spectrum, and the dangers of disregarding the infrared, ultraviolet and other spectrums that exert a substantial influence on us and our planet.  In the same way, we act at our peril by exclusively focusing on traditional business and market factors without considering other meaningful factors.  “If the only tool you use is a price tag, then those things that don’t come with price tags attached don’t seem to have any value,” he said.

Gore encouraged the students to stay on the right path.  “Millions of people are searching for a better way to find meaning in their lives when they routinely encounter a business environment and a marketplace that seems to frequently clash with what they see their personal lives as right and good and just,” he said. Loosely quoting William Penn, Gore added that wrong is wrong, even if everyone does it, and right is right, even if nobody does it.

Friday’s lunchtime keynote speakers were Gary Hirschberg, Chairman, President and CE-Yo, Stonyfield Farms, the world’s largest manufacturer of organic yogurt, and Greg Steltenpohl, CEO of Adina World Beat Beverages and founder and former CEO of Odwalla, Inc.  Saturday’s keynote speakers were Vyomesh Joshi, Executive Vice President of HP’s Imaging and Printing Group, and Judy Vredenburgh, President and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.

In addition to the keynotes, attendees were able to attend breakout sessions under the following curriculum tracks:

– Business and the Environment
– Business in the Nonprofit Sector
– Corporate Social Responsibility
– International Development
– Leadership Development
– Social Entrepreneurship
– Socially Responsible Investing

Click here for the Net Impact website.