Saturday started early around 8 am. We reached the venue to hear one of the key note speakers of the day, Mr. Gary Hirshberg, CEO of Stonyfield Farm, a man who started his business with just seven cows and with no VC and grew it to a $340 million company; a man who has weaved sustainability through every piece of his business.
His ways were different, his courage laudable and his passion contagious.
When he spoke about renewing the top soil of the farms or anaerobically treating waste water or capturing the attention of the buyers by quality and not by larger-than-life advertisements, I was at awe of his ideas, personality, courage and his passion for sustainability.
Whoever would have thought of feeding the cows with proper diet from the perspective of global warming? He did. The methane from cow’s burp could be avoided by feeding them with their proper diet. The amount of methane might be small to significantly melt the glaciers, but if something detrimental to the environment can be avoided, then why not?
He was bold enough to cite the unhealthy food choices that we make and in claiming that the whole world could be fed with organic foods alone. I don’t know what it takes to feed the world with just organic foods, but I would love it if that becomes a reality and I loved him for his brave comments on those who said it was not possible.
His model of win-win-win with the farmers, the business folks and the consumers as the players, brought everyone to think differently. His story of receiving a reject from the White House to stock Stonyfield in their kitchens because of a lid label which read “In politics, the cream doesn’t always rise to the top”, brought smiles and laughter to the audience. When he showed the contradictions between the government’s suggestions on healthy food and its subsidies to the food types, I could see the collective nod of the crowd in agreement.
All-in-all, he enraptured the crowd with his presentation and am sure like me, several others who are new to Stonyfield would at least want to try it now.
Another person who was impressive with his unconventional thoughts was the Finance Professor at Ross, Prof. Gautam. He urged us to look beyond the $ values that we place on the things we do and make financial knowledge to help gain a positive social impact. The two panels that he moderated were very good learning steps for someone like me, for whom Finance might well have been Greek.
It’s just amazing how in a sea of speakers and notaries, a few just blow you away with their unconventional ideas and personalities.
I came home with two distinct thoughts borrowed from these great thinkers – “Don’t let ‘the best’ be the enemy of ‘the good'” and “When you fear, you can not love people. Love – for the environment and all things in it, is the first step to sustainability”
The weekend ended on a high note with OSU Net Impact winning the ‘Small Graduate Chapter of the year 2010’!! Way to go!!
The next Net Impact conference is in Portland, OR.. Looking forward to another such stimulating weekend.