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Whole Foods talks sustainability at Fordham

Event Recaps Stories | Dec 19, 2011 |

by Elizabeth Anderson (FCRH ’13)

Sustainability — the filling of human social, economic and other needs in ways that still leave resources for future generations — is quickly progressing beyond a fad to a necessary element of every field of study, including business. Today, being aware of the impact that one’s business has on the environment and society has implications beyond the basics of social responsibility: It also offers countless financial and economic benefits.

To increase Fordham students’ exposure to the idea of sustainable business, United Student Government brought in a leading company in this arena: Whole Foods Market. As part of a December campus event called Business Goes Green, Whole Foods employee Tristam Coffin, whose job title is “green mission specialist,” spoke to about 50 students in Keating First about how Whole Foods incorporates environmental responsibility into its business methods and takes a holistic approach to sustainability.

Mr. Coffin focused his remarks on how Whole Foods reduces, reuses and recycles its products; uses alternative energy methods in its stores; and works to sell the most natural and least processed products possible. He described Whole Foods’ community giving and outreach initiatives, such as its composting and water-conservation efforts. His presentation emphasized the benefits of these sustainable initiatives on the financial and economical success of Whole Foods’ business. Customers want to buy from companies that they identify as environmentally responsible, and Whole Foods is reaping those rewards.

Mr. Coffin was followed by Michael Pirson, an assistant professor of management systems in Fordham’s Schools of Business. Professor Pirson drew a link between Mr. Coffin’s discussion about sustainability at Whole Foods and undergraduate learning at Fordham. Sustainability has gained momentum on Fordham’s campus with the creation of a new interdisciplinary minor in sustainable business. The introductory course was offered for the first time this past semester.

After the two speakers fielded questions from the audience, the group enjoyed a reception catered by Whole Foods, during which students had a chance to discuss how the items were sustainably produced.

The most significant lesson from the event was that organizations such as Whole Foods can incorporate sustainable practices into their business methods without sacrificing their success as a company. This can only serve as inspiration for Fordham students to pursue this field academically. Within sustainability, there is endless opportunity.


Image courtesy of Laura Taylor on Flickr’s Creative Commons.

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