By Contributing Author
Changing the world through business is an idea whose time has come, Michelle Miller says.
It captured the long-time businesswoman’s imagination at Presidio Graduate School where, while studying for her MBA, she discovered that sustainability can be integrated into every business theory, from accounting to organizational development.
The resulting opportunities to apply sustainability to different technologies and business models are vast, Miller says.
“(It’s) the fact that (Presidio is) using business to change the world, because that seems to be the major stumbling block. Everybody is looking at how to get their slice of the pie and elbowing the competition to the right, left, front and back,” Miller says. “And nobody gets anywhere doing that. They just get a bunch of bruises. So I really liked the idea of leveraging business to make change.”
It’s the answer Miller was searching for. Running her own fashion company for years, she committed to changing careers after learning of California’s literary rates when her eldest child began school.
“Appalled” by the rates, she says she decided then she wanted “to do something more important with my life than making sure Mrs. Gotrocks had the right color snakeskin to get on her cruise with.”
Earning an MBA from Presidio in 2009, Miller now describes herself as “a green technophile,” working on green-energy projects. She’s also a past participant and current sustainability mentor for the nation-wide Cleantech Open competition for clean-technology entrepreneurs.
Miller champions change but notes that real change takes time and whole systems thinking and strategizing, which Presidio emphasizes and matches her deductive thinking.
“This is where we want to end up so this is what we have to do to get there,” she says.
“These are the kinds of things we learned at Presidio . . . projecting out where things are going to be in X number of years if they continue on this path. And what are the things that could change that and can we change that and if we can, how do we change that. If we don’t change it now, at what point on the timeline do we apply levers?” Miller says.
“If I had to pick one thing that Presidio is about, it’s the interconnectedness of life.”
Integrating sustainability into business could bring real change throughout global society and ease distress in many parts of the world, Miller says. She also sees technology being used more for the greater good.
Miller contributes to this effort through her project work and says her education has changed her behavior and that of her family and friends. She also cites her work with Presidio, like a lecture series that brought together entrepreneurs and thought leaders and the public to share experiences and examine various technologies, theories, and processes.
“I think opening up those kinds of conversations is really important,” Miller says, adding that “to illuminate these little gems in society” sparks greater understanding of one’s own behavior and the need for whole systems thinking.
Miller frequently connects with others in the Presidio community, including alumni and current students. She’s been involved in alumni association initiatives and, just the other day, was able to extend support to a student working on their Capstone project.
It’s part of the distinctive community that is Presidio — a network of many people committed to realizing a common vision of a more sustainable world.
“This is a place where, once you’ve got the constituency, you’ve pretty much got them for life,” Miller says. “And they’re not a constituency that goes quietly into the night. They’re change makers and they know how to do it so don’t be surprised when they do.”
She says approaching problems from a positive perspective is important. “These are opportunities (to make a difference) because it’s just too easy to get bogged down in anything else.”
Miller encourages people to start contributing to a more sustainable future by looking are their own behavior at home and begin, for example, sourcing locally.
“If everybody looked at what impact you can have then you wouldn’t have to be pointing your finger anywhere else,” Miller says. “People who put themselves in positions of judgment are missing the most present opportunity of all and that’s the one in the mirror.”
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