By Sara Soderstrom, Erb Faculty Member
I was excited to attend and present at Sustainable Brands 2018. My research focuses on how organizations are engaging with sustainability challenges, and my work’s motivation stems from my deep-seated hope that business will transform how we address the many societal challenges that we face today. I believe that business is uniquely situated to help solve challenges like climate change and poverty. It was inspiring to hear from hundreds of companies at Sustainable Brands that are working to redefine how they do business—to do well by doing good.
As a University of Michigan faculty member, it was also exciting to have an opportunity to share my research with an audience of practitioners. My academic career often feels split—research and conferences with other academics, and teaching with practitioners. Yet for our research to have impact beyond the ivory tower—as Professor Andy Hoffman at Erb challenges us to do!—we must engage with practice around data collection, analysis and sharing of findings. Sustainable Brands was a great chance for me to do that.
I shared research I had done a few years ago with Kate Heinze, associate professor of Sport Management, University of Michigan. We did a case study on the Detroit Lions and how they developed a new, more strategic approach to engagement with the local community. Kate and I had been working on a different research project in Detroit, focusing on FoodLab Detroit and the emergence of a sustainable food economy in the city. As we spoke with different food entrepreneurs, we kept hearing about the Detroit Lions as an example of a fantastic partner to these early-stage business people. We started to explore what the Lions were doing and how they were having such a positive impact.