CEO Reflects on Sustainable Business for Enrichment Program

Sally Jewell, CEO of leading US outdoor sports equipment retailer REI, reflected on business as “the institution to save the world” at a lecture BridgeEnglish Denver executive students attended as part of the school’s Executive Enrichment Program.

Jewell is the president and CEO of REI, a national retail co-operative serving more than four million members in 114 retail stores in 27 states. Consumers become members of the co-op and receive part of the profits annually.  The company has been named by Fortune Magazine as one of the 100 Best Companies to Work for in America and ranks no. 9 on the 2011 list.

Speaking at the University of Denver, Jewell discussed the changing expectations of customers and the increasing focus on corporate responsibility, including sustainability and accountability. She cited the goal of REI becoming “carbon neutral” by 2020 through recycling, reducing shipping costs and materials and powering green buildings with solar and wind energy.  In-depth research and analysis of actual energy use in buildings is receiving much greater emphasis as REI evolves new operation models.

Jewell reflected on five significant factors affecting current business practices:  globalization, including offshore production and flattened global supply chains; urbanization; demographic shifts in populations; advanced technologies; and climate change.  She said that extreme global poverty can be alleviated by offshore production, which brings jobs to underdeveloped countries.

Reflecting on the concept of sustainability, BridgeEnglish Denver student, Henrique Da Silva Rodriques, a metallurgical engineer with mining company AngloGold Ashanti in Brazil, commented: “It is impossible for us to think about creating new enterprises without thinking about sustainability. I believe that we need to compensate for the damage we do to the earth, to help the environment, preserve animals and plants and try to develop ways to minimize man’s impacts.”

BridgeEnglish Denver participants included Rodrigues, Julie Saby, a marketing executive based in Paris, Makoto Suzuki, a senior manager at Orix Real Estate Corporation in Japan, and Akira Yamazaki of KYB Corporation in Japan.

BridgeEnglish Denver is striving to enrich the cultural and professional experience of executive students while they are studying in Denver by introducing them to the international business community through networking events and lectures at local universities and international organizations.