A natural disaster strikes and a company is forced to quickly decide its course of action. From monetary donations to large-scale relief efforts, the impact upon an organization’s operations and reputation is a significant decision that involves careful consideration of internal and external implications. The Tepper School’s Net Impact graduate student club has a lot to say about which course of action is indicative of an organization committed to the principles of corporate social responsibility. An international student organization, Net Impact and the Tepper School chapter includes approximately 40 students who share an interest in promoting an understanding of global business ethics.
“We encourage others to think beyond the financial models discussed in class,” says Oren Lieberman, MBA 2008 and co-president of the school’s Net Impact club. “Our goal is to reinforce the realization that there’s more to being a great leader than making sure you hit your numbers.”
With more than 130 chapters on five continents, Net Impact aims to develop a new generation of leaders that uses its business influence to make a positive social, environmental and economic impact on the world. Though just two years young, the Tepper chapter has already made an impact on campus.
The local campus organization holds faculty discussion lunches, a regular speaker series, debriefing sessions with local non-profit organizations. In addition, a Tepper School contingent attends the annual National Net Impact Conference held each November. “When we sponsor events, the sessions are full,” says Lieberman. “Our students are definitely engaged. For a lot of them, environmental issues like reducing energy consumption and emissions are important. For other students, social aspects like fair wages are key. Others want to make a bigger impact on the world than a purely financial one.”
One event called “Entrepreneurship, Videogames, and Peace on Earth” illustrated how a current start-up company combined entrepreneurship and technology in an on-line role-playing game with benefits that extended beyond pure profitability. Eric Brown, co-founder and CEO of ImpactGames discussed the creation of the company and its PeaceMaker game. “Participants will play the part of the Palestinian president or the Israeli prime minister, then either wreak havoc on the region or bring peace and win a Nobel Prize,” says Lieberman. “It’s an innovative way to teach socially and morally responsible leadership.”
At another event, Net Impact hosted Bill Pounds (MSIA 1959, PhD 1964), former dean of the MIT Sloan School of Management and expert on the governance of corporations. Pounds spoke to more than 100 Tepper students about his views regarding governance issues for every business, public or private, foreign or domestic, profit or non-profit.
Members of Net Impact also assist other student groups and community members in need. Club members have participated in stream clean-up programs, provided consulting services to local businesses; and developed business plans for local organizations, including a special 2007 Habitat for Humanity project. Students recently partnered with Carnegie Mellon engineering and architectural students who entered a national competition to design and build a completely solar-powered house. “We developed the marketing plan to help them sell the house, one of the contest parameters. It was a great cross-disciplinary collaboration,” says Lieberman.
“Net Impact helps students realize they can impact the business world in whatever positive way they choose, whether by volunteering their time, money or business expertise,” says Lieberman. “In whatever role I take in the future, I definitely plan to be influential within my organization to be a good corporate citizen.”