Management professor believes business can play role in changing the world
by Amy Wolf
Business can and should be a catalyst for social and environmental change. That’s the philosophy Jim Schorr has been practicing and promoting across the country and the world for the last 15 years. Now he’ll be teaching this progressive business concept to future business leaders at the Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management.
“Business and corporations have emerged as the dominant institution on the planet today, making business the most high-potential platform for effecting change in the world,” Schorr said. “There are important roles business must play in improving the conditions of society.”
Schorr is among the nation’s leading experts on social enterprise and entrepreneurship. In 1993, he co-founded Net Impact, an international non-profit dedicated to creating a network of MBAs and professionals committed to using the power of business to make a positive social, environmental and economic impact. The organization now has more than 25,000 alumni and members, with chapters at every major business school in the United States, including Vanderbilt, and on five continents.
Vanderbilt was chosen to host 1,300 MBAs from 120 business schools and 10 countries for the 2007 Net Impact Conference at the Owen School last November, with the theme “Building a Sustainable Future: What Will You Do Next?”
Schorr said in this day and age, the idea of social responsibility is not a tough sell to corporate America and no longer the fringe activity it was 20 years ago.
“Doing the right thing is not just good for society; it can be good for the corporation, for shareholders and for the bottom line,” Schorr said. “Business leaders are beginning to focus on social responsibility as an area of opportunity for the future.”
Along with teaching at the Owen School, Schorr is planning to develop a new academic center at Vanderbilt focused on the role of business in society. He said his goal is to collaborate with faculty, staff and students from across the university, as well as national organizations.
But there’s another big reason why Schorr is coming to Vanderbilt: his parents, three younger brothers and extended family. Schorr grew up in Tennessee and most of his family lives near Memphis where they run a true music mecca. Fifteen years ago, Schorr’s family took over the famous Sun Studio, where Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and other music icons made history.
Most recently, Schorr worked at the Haas School of Business at the University of California-Berkeley. He said the new opportunity at Owen is an ideal fit for him, professionally and personally.
“This is definitely a homecoming for me, and I’m really excited for that,” he said.
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