With the intent to promote sustainability, UNH hosted a discussion panel titled, “Businesses as Agents of Change” Tuesday night in the Granite State Room (GSR) of the Memorial Union Building (MUB). The dialogue was partnered with the Patagonia “Worn Wear College Road Tour” and the UNH Repair Fair that took place for most of that day in the MUB’s Strafford Room, where Patagonia brought in full-time touring technicians to fix ripped or broken clothes, free of charge. UNH was one of 21 schools chosen by Patagonia and the Post-Landfill Action Network (PLAN) as a stop on this tour.
The panel was moderated by Fiona Wilson, executive director of the Center for Social Innovation and Enterprise, and featured five panelists.
UNH alumnus Alex Fried, founder of both UNH’s “Trash 2 Treasure” program and of PLAN, kicked off the discussion event. Fried spoke about his own experiences at UNH and the impact that sustainability plays in his everyday life. He also spoke of his advice to UNH students, relaying the message that sustainability can play in students’ and faculty’s lives.
“I encourage everyone to get involved,” Fried said. “One of the biggest things I learned here at UNH is to network. Networking plays a huge part in what I do today with PLAN and the over 100 college campuses we work with in promoting sustainability.”
One of the panelists participating in the dialogue was Patagonia’s director of philosophy, Vincent Stanley, who was also the event’s featured keynote speaker. Stanley spoke on Patagonia’s successes with sustainability over the last 25 years, and how environmental issues will, if not already, become a major problem that companies face in the next five to 10 years.
“Still, even today, everything we do at Patagonia takes back from the planet more than we can return,” Stanley said. “We at Patagonia believe that environmental challenges will be the central issues for businesses in the years to come. There is no way to avoid it.”
Other panelists included Colleen Vien, director of sustainability at Timberland, Amy Hall, director of social consciousness at Eileen Fisher, Betsy Blaisdell, vice president of product at the Sustainable Apparel Coalition and Stewart Shepard, member of the fabric sustainability team at W. L. Gore and Associates. Blaisdell, an UNH alumna, was impressed by the movement of sustainability that UNH students have formed compared to how it was during her time at UNH. “I think UNH has realized business is an incredible change agent,” Blaisdell said. “If we’re going to change social and environmental issues, business, especially in this political climate, is the best place to do that.”
Vien spoke on her hope that students to either have an interest in sustainability or became interested after the panel session.
“I’m hoping that the students in the audience tonight are excited about two things,” Vien said. “One, that no matter what field of education they choose to pursue that they have the ability to pursue sustainability and two, that students understand they have a role in solving all of these big problems, not only in their career path, but also as a consumer.”