Laura Roberts preaches responsibility, sustainability in CCOB talk
By Mark Heller
GCU News Bureau
There’s more to a successful business than making money hand over fist.
Sustainability, social and environmental impact, and conscientiousness are more important than ever, and their importance is growing by the year.
Pantheon Enterprises co-founder and CEO Laura Roberts’ message to Grand Canyon University students in the Colangelo College of Business on Wednesday was widely applicable for future business professionals:
Learn. Think critically. Understand. Act. And, if necessary, rebel.
Roberts pointed to what she believes is one of the worst mantras the business world has fostered: “That’s the way we’ve always done things.”
“That’s intolerable,” she said. “That can’t be the way. It has to be better.”
Roberts knows. She began her startup business in 2001, was told “no” by a variety of investors “about 400 times,” but eventually raised $30 million in capital for her business. Her privately-held organization is a chemical manufacturer of environmentally safe industrial products.
An advocate for conservation and sustainability of products, Roberts is also a member of Conscious Capitalism, an organization dedicated to promoting higher purpose in business, and has served on a variety of organizational and leadership boards throughout the Valley.
“Business can be a force for good,” she said. “If you only do it to maximize profits, then a whole lot of stakeholders will be negatively impacted. There needs to be a higher reason than just making profits.”
Her endeavors into chemicals and other potentially harmful substances used in everyday goods and manufacturing were partly influenced by the harms often created and a lack of transparency. She urged her audience of next-generation business professionals to advocate change, responsibility and the difference between “transaction” business and “interpersonal” business.
In citing the aluminum industry, along with companies such as Patagonia outdoor clothing company and The Container Store, Roberts pointed out how potential negatives (not seeking maximum profits, minimalist expenses, poor labor practices, etc.) can be turned into positives through sustainable practices that preserve our environment for the next generation.
Doing so through organizational change and transparency may cost time and money up front, but can still boost the bottom line over time.
“Sustainability isn’t a stand-alone concept,” she said. “Whether you’re a doctor, lawyer, accountant, mathematician, engineer, (human resources), anything, there’s sustainability within every field.”
The conscious capitalism theme is a thread in CCOB’s Speaker Series this year. Colangelo College of Business Dean Dr. Randy Gibb emphasized the concept is an integral part of GCU’s servant leadership. Roberts, who spoke earlier in the day to a group of law and ethics students, shared her multi-dimensional expertise that includes women in leadership, women in STEM subjects, chemistry, sustainability and entrepreneurship.
“We’re going to repeat these types of presentations over and over to expose (students) to conscious capitalism and having a higher purpose,” Gibb said. “You have to have a higher purpose in how you do business.”
That includes preserving our world, the people who live in it, and making a positive impact beyond bank accounts.
“This generation is so influential to help create solutions for our world, and there are solutions for everything,” she said. “You can change the conversation, and it can happen whether you’re at the helm or want to be soon enough. You can have an impact no matter where you sit.”
Contact Mark Heller at (602) 639-7516 or [email protected]