Local Roots, Global Reach: U.Va. Darden's Annual Business in Society Conference

06/03/2014

"When we talk about food and cuisine, we're really talking about culture, about religion and about who you are. You can't get much more local than when you think about what you eat," said University of Virginia Darden School of Business alumna Katherine Neebe (MBA `04), director for sustainability and stakeholder engagement at Walmart.

Neebe delivered the keynote speech during the annual Darden Business in Society Conference. The theme of the event was "Local Roots, Global Reach," which, according to Neebe, aptly relates to the business practices and philosophy of Walmart.

"We have a whole series of commitments within the sustainable agriculture space and these all fold into our commitment to sustainable products for people and for the planet," said Neebe, who shared that about 9 percent of all Walmart's produce is locally sourced. "Our goal is to double the produce we source locally by 2015."

Neebe also shared how her career path led her to a position in sustainability.

Her background is in nonprofit organizations and entrepreneurial startups. Before joining Walmart, she spent six years at the World Wildlife Fund, where she led the organization's first large corporation/nongovernmental organization (NGO) partnership. This collaboration focused on fresh water conservation.

"Things came together for me professionally when I joined the World Wildlife Fund. I was hired to lead our partnership with The Coca-Cola Company, which at that time was a brand new initiative, and the first time a big NGO had partnered with a big corporation," Neebe said.

Neebe shared that the experience was intense and that lots of questions arose about the union between two very different organizations with one shared agenda. However, the group persevered.

"That project itself is continuing. I think it's quite successful," Neebe added.

The Business in Society Conference also included four panel discussions, which covered various topics in sustainability and business:

  • Session 1: "Are Renewables Do-Able?"
  • Session 2: "Unlocking Technology Potential for Social Impact"
  • Session 3: "Scaling Small Business Impact"
  • Session 4: "The Local Role of Large Companies"

The School's Net Impact student club, Darden Energy Club, Darden Business & Public Policy Club, Education Club at Darden, Darden Health Care Leadership Club and Emerging Markets Development Club co-organized the conference with support from Darden's Institute for Business in Society.  

While many students, visitors, faculty and staff members were present at the event, a snowstorm prevented travel for many more who wanted to attend the conference, which took place on 14 February.

Those who were unable to attend can now watch Neebe's full talk on Darden's YouTube channel.  

About the Darden School of Business
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business is one of the world's leading business schools, offering MBA, Ph.D. and Executive Education programs. The unique Darden experience combines the case study method, top-ranked faculty whose research advances global managerial practice and business education, and a tight-knit learning environment to develop responsible and complete leaders who are ready to make an impact.

For questions or information, contact Abena Foreman-Trice or a member of the Communication team.

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