Archive for CSR

RIT Alum Heads Effort to get her B-Corp Named to ‘Best for the Environment’ List

Ann Sherman, a RIT alum who took the sustainable management concentration at the Saunders College of Business, recently forwarded me this great news!  Ann is Staach’s Director of Sustainability and spearheaded the effort.  Great news Ann!


Staach Named to ‘Best for the Environment’ List

Staach is among 84 Businesses recognized for their commitment to addressing environmental challenges.

April 22, 2014: Rochester NY

The nonprofit B Lab has released their third annual ‘B Corp Best for the Environment’ list and Rochester, NY based furniture manufacturer Staach Inc was recognized for creating the most positive environmental impact. The list honors 84 businesses with an environmental impact score in the top 10% of all Certified B Corporations. Scores are determined using the B Impact Assessment, a rigorous and comprehensive evaluation of a company’s influence on its workers, community, and the environment. Honorees include micro, small, and mid-sized businesses.

Other businesses recognized include outdoor retailers Patagonia and GoLite, home and personal care companies Method and Seventh Generation, employee-owned craft brewery New Belgium Brewery and the 20 year old waste reduction and management company, WasteZero.

“Our environmental practices are the foundation of our business and it’s wonderful to be recognized for our ongoing efforts to operate in a responsible manner. We are grateful to our customers who have recognized the value in our products, and our network of partners who have contributed to our success. We hope that this acknowledgment inspires others to engage in the conversation and leads to more support as we assist one another in reducing our impacts.”  -Anne Sherman, Staach Director of Sustainability

Founded in 2006 with a commitment to sustainable processes and local sourcing, Staach utilizes a team of passionate designers and craftspeople to create inspiring contemporary furnishings and environments. All of their products are FSC Certified and made with water-based finishes, using energy efficient methods and regional materials.

Staach maintains a strong commitment to customer service and collaboration between and services a range of clients, from local residences to International restaurant chains. Through their efforts, Staach aims to become industry leaders while generating pride for Made in the USA, supporting the local community, and creating meaningful experiences for our customers and partners.

B Lab is a nonprofit organization that serves a global movement to redefine success in business so that all companies compete not only to be the best in the world, but the best for the world.

By building a community of Certified B Corporations, they aim to make it easier for all of us to tell the difference between “good companies” and good marketing. For more information, visit

MBA Students Use Business Knowledge to Help with Sanitation in Haiti

From January 4th, 2014 to January 15th, 2014, Jon Eppolito and Airin O’Connor, two RIT MBA students concentrating in Sustainable Management, traveled to Haiti in order to gather market data and research to assist RIT’s Sustainable Engineering students in design of affordable sanitation solutions for the rural regions of Haiti. Below is their trip report:


While in Haiti, we conducted several focus groups.  The goal of the focus groups was to determine household sizes and purchasing capabilities based on recent buying behavior.  We also asked several design preference questions for the Arborloo, the name for the model of waterless toilets being developed by the sustainable engineering students.

The focus groups spanned the northern coast of Haiti in townships surrounding the city of Cap-Haitian, which acts as the hub for the entire northern portion of the country.  We tried to limit the attendance of the groups to 20 individuals as to stimulate more productive conversation.  This was an effective strategy as a trend developed that the smaller the group the more helpful the session was.

Our biggest challenge was figuring out how to get people to answer the questions honestly, rather than telling us what we wanted to hear.  We revised our questions after each group when we figured out what worked and what didn’t.  There has been significant education in the importance of proper sanitation and the consequences of not disposing of waste properly, however many people lack the means to create a better option.  People are interested in many technology improvements to their lives such as with solar power or electronic communication (cell phones, etc.).  People consider toilets a necessity but also have many things they need in their houses and toilets are often purchased last.  Many seemed interested in having customizable options as well as payment plans or a credit system to purchase the toilet with.

Additional conversations with sanitation professionals stressed the importance of education and we believe this will have to be incorporated in any marketing campaign for a future product.  The communities that had the most education about how to properly use, maintain, and repair toilets found them to be the most valuable.

We also evaluated our options for product distribution.  Many organizations, such as the peasant organizations, are interested in partnering with our group to provide a product to their larger communities. Infrastructure and politics are on-going considerations that impact the reach this product can have.

Currently, we have joined the student incubator team for the Arborloo; working with our coach and professors we will try to extract more value out of our data and use this information to create an effective product not only for Haiti but potentially many developing countries.  The eventual goal is to create a business model that we can step away from and allow Haitian communities to manage on their own accord in order to stimulate local commerce.  We both feel that our coursework from marketing and sustainable management courses helped significantly in how to approach the issue and further develop the business model.

Jon Eppolito and Airin O’Connor

Erin (in green shirt) and Jon (in bright blue shirt) help run a market focus group.

Corporate Governance and CSR

Question to Ask the Prof: What is the relationship between corporate governance and corporate social responsibility?

Answer (Professor Zhang): In finance, the goal of a corporation is to maximize its shareholders’ value. However, the corporation is typically run by professional managers who have their self-interest. The goal of managers is to maximize their own benefits. In finance, the so-called corporate governance means shareholders use various mechanisms to align managers’ interest with shareholders’ and to prevent managers from engaging in self-dealing activities. Corporate governance mechanisms include board of directors, equity-based compensation, shareholder activism, etc.  In sum, corporate governance mechanisms are designed to protect the benefits of shareholders.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is not necessary consistent with the value-maximization goal of a corporation, although more recent studies show that good-CSR firms have good firm performance. Professor Hull and Rothenberg’s SMJ paper (i.e., Hull and Rothenberg, 2008) is related to this issue. CSR emphasizes the benefits of various stakeholders (not only shareholders).

Taken together, if we argue that CSR means firms should act responsibly to all stakeholders, then good corporate governance means firms should act responsibly to one type of stakeholders, i.e., shareholder. In this sense, we may argue that corporate governance is a dimension of CSR.

Women in Business start a Kiva Account

The Women in Business Group was awarded a small grant from the Institute for Business Ethics and Social Responsibility to start a KIVA account, which provides micro-loans world wide. Follow their progress at:

Other loans made with the KIVA account include:

Rabeea is 29 years old and is married with three daughters and one son from Jordan. She has started a small business selling home products, basically kitchen tools, to help in improving the family living conditions.
Now Rabeea has applied for a loan to buy more home products and expand her business.

Nino Mchedlishv is from a small village near Tbilisi, is 43 years old and lives with her family: husband – Konstantin, 21-year-old daughter, 19-year-old son, son-in-law, and 75-year-old mother.
Nino is leading the agricultural business for her family. She has a milk cow. Nino produces yogurt and sells it locally. Also, the family owns a greenhouse with an area of 250 sq. meters. It is used for growing tomatoes, cucumbers and greens. Nino sells the harvested products in Tbilisi. Nino’s husband is a worker. The total average monthly income for the family is 1000 Laris, including the monthly pension of Nino’s mother.
Nino requested credit to purchase a new milk cow. She will double the production and sales of yogurt and the income of the family will increase. Nino will use increased income to purchase additional household goods to improve her family’s living conditions.

Mercy Mbugua is 30 years old and has four children aged 14, 9, 7 and 4 years old. She has been selling new shoes for the past 10 years and earns a monthly income of KES 60,000. She wants to purchase more shoes for sale and has requested for a loan worth KES 30,000.  The profit earned will assist her to pay school fees for her children as well rent and food. She wants to expand her business and this is her first loan.


Belisa Cathy Larico Flores is from Camana, Peru. She sells shoes, and is looking for this loan because she wants to expand the shoe business into the summer shoes, get a variety of products.

Marine Hakobyan is from Yerevan, Armenia. She is a young clothing retailer who lives with her mother, father, and three brothers who are students. The money will help pay for the education of her brothers as well as more clothing for the business and stability for the business.

Using Corporate Social Responsibility to Win the War for Talent

In a MIT Sloan Management article, C.B. Bhattacharya, Sankar Sen and Daniel Korschun look further into the relationship between a company’s CSR initiatives and its ability to attract and retain high quality employees. The authors discuss the growing evidence that there is a strong relationship between these two. They also state that CSR initiatives can help reveal company values, further the company’s talent management practices and it even serves as a genuine point of differentiation for the company.

For more information regarding this study please follow this link


New Alumni Profile!

Take a look at our new Alumni Profile

Live Video Streaming from New CSR Course

On January 18, 6:00 pm PT, Stanford Graduate School of Business’ Center for Social Innovation will be streaming live from their new course on Corporate Social Responsibility. Join Stanford students as they hear former Vice President of Global Citizenship at Hewlett Packard, Debra Dunn, discuss the evolving nature of stakeholder theory.
Live Video Streaming from New CSR Course