Spartan Global Development Fund: Sustainability and Engagement: From Local to Global; The Project
The Spartan Global Development Fund (SGDF) was launched on July 4, 2009 with four microloans to entrepreneurs in developing countries as a way to fight poverty and inequality around the world. As of September 2010 the group had made over 200 microloans, and that number increases each month. Advisor Paulette L. Stenzel, Professor of International Business Law, states, “I am delighted to work with SGDF because its members are hard-working and totally committed to their mission.”
Partnership with Community
MSU students, faculty, alumni, and organizations including Kiva.org (“Kiva”), a 501(c)(3) microloan organization, and the MSU Federal Credit Union (MSUFCU) have helped SGDF secure funding for its portfolio. With the assistance of the MSUCollege ofLawSmall Business &Nonprofit Clinic, SGDF is on its way to its own non-profit 503(c) status, which will enable its members to expand its lending activities to other areas such as Michigan.
Impact in Terms of Economy and Social Equity
SGDF operates in ways that promote two major facets of sustainability: economy and social equity. SGDF selects a loan applicant through Kiva and contributes between $25 and $50 toward the loan, often co-funding it with dozens of other social investors from around the globe. This diversification method minimizes the individual default risk to the portfolio, while maximizing the global reach of the organization. After over one year of lending, SGDF’s loan portfolio has a 0% default rate and is diversified across 42 countries and 13 sectors of the economy. As borrowers make payments on their loans, SGDF uses the funds to make new loans. These repayment rates and the investment strategy demonstrate sustainability. Additionally, attainment of 501(c)(3) status by SGDFI will make it easy to transfer operations to its future leaders, again ensuring the groups long term operations. Further, microfinance organizations like SDGF support social equity by only issuing loans to entrepreneurs who have been previously excluded from financial markets, a majority of whom are women.
In the words of SGDF’s leaders, “The Spartan Global Development Fund recruits Michigan State Spartans who are socially minded, intellectually curious, and driven to make an impact in the world.” The group was founded by MSU Finance Majors Michael Thelen (B.A. December 2009) and Chaz Bauer (B.A. Candidate, Spring 2011), and includes students from the Broad College and other MSU colleges.
SGDF as described by a Broad College Alumnus
Mike Kalis, Managing Partner of Marketplace Homes, states, “When Michael Thelen first approached me with the idea [for SGDF], I couldn’t say no. [SGDF has] helped stretch $3,000 further than I would have thought possible.” He adds, “I’m very impressed with the professionalism and work that [members] have contributed. I truly believe that micro-loans, both locally and abroad are something that can have amazing impacts. I’m a small entrepreneur [who] has found that taking risks and earning a living is far better than relying on someone else to give it to you. I think this organization is 100% amazing, and I’m privileged to be involved.”
MSU Students for Fair Trade Promote the Three Legs of the Triple Bottom Line: Economy, Social Equity, and Environment
The Group’s Impact:MSU Students for Fair Trade (MSUSFT) is a multidisciplinary group that is dedicated to promoting Fair Trade. Created in 2003 with the name, “The Real Food Group,” the organization worked with Sparty’s Coffee Shops and MSU residence halls. Their combined efforts resulted in adoption of Fair Trade coffee as the coffee of choice on MSU’s campus starting in the fall of 2005. In 2006, the group was renamed MSU Students for Fair Trade, reflecting its expanded mission: to promote Fair Trade and associated businesses in our local area. The group sponsors speakers on topics related to Fair Trade and Sustainability throughout each academic year, culminating with a “Fair Trade Bash” each spring that includes numerous Fair Trade vendors from throughout Michigan, music, Fair Trade coffee and snacks, and guest speakers from Fair Trade organizations. In 2010, their guest speaker was Chris Treter, Manager of Higher Grounds Coffee of Traverse City, Michigan’s only 100% Fair Trade and organic coffee roaster. Mr. Treter gave a presentation about On the Ground, the non-profit affliliate of his company, which partners with coffee-growing communities in Mexico, Ethiopia, and other countries to bring fresh drinking water, education, and health care to producers and their families.
Defining Sustainability and Identifying Sustainable Business Practices:Sustainability “is about the interdependence of living organisms and communities (both human and nonhuman) over the long haul…. Each has an impact on and consequences for the others.” Increasing numbers of businesses today realize that sustainable practices ensure that a firm can be viable over the long term. In the business world, sustainability is often discussed in terms of the Triple Bottom Line, through which a business examines its sustainability efforts by looking at its effects on economy, environment, and social equity. The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) is a widely-used program through which businesses report to the public on their activities related to sustainability. The GRI’s 146 metrics, based on the Triple Bottom Line, are all about demonstrating progress toward sustainability. Thus, the activities of MSUSFT fit squarely within the parameters of the Triple Bottom Line. Fair Trade addresses the economic and social equity legs of the Triple Bottom Line by creating jobs that give workers a living wage, not just a subsistence wage. Worker cooperatives receivea social premium that helps with needs such as health care, education and clean water, again addressing both social and economic needs. Fair Trade foods and textiles are produced with attention to environmental sustainability, minimizing or eliminating use of harmful pesticides, thus protecting the Earth (environmental) and workers (social equity).
Multidisciplinary Approach with Community Connections: Members of MSUSFT come from various colleges across campus as well as the Broad College of Business. The group works closely with businesses, non-profit organizations, students, and non-students in our own community. The students work closely with Broad College Alumnus, Gail Catron, owner of the local Fair Trade store “Kirabo.” MSUSFT maintains a close working relationship with Esperanza en Acción (Hope through Action), an Okemos-based non-profit Fair Trade organization that works with over thirty Nicaraguan producer groups and their families.
Sustainability in Action:Paulette L. Stenzel, Professor of International Business Law and a specialist in Fair Trade, is advisor to MSUSFT. She emphasizes that the Fair Trade movement in business addresses all three legs of the Triple Bottom Line.
Diving into the Spider Web: Environmental Law and Sustainability in a Learning Community
Each semester, our learning community begins with a discussion of a picture of a spider web. The web illustrates the inseparable connections among economy, social equity, and environment that are integral to our studies in GBL 480 Environmental Law and Sustainability for Business. Following suit, GBL 480 Environmental Law and Sustainability for Business: From Local to Global, is all about interconnections. Our unique course focuses on sustainability by exploring law and public policy as well as business tools such as the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI). Throughout the course there is an emphasis on the pursuit of integrity in the business world.
This course takes a unique approach to learning. We explore sustainability and related topics in law and public policy through readings, short lectures, commentary, guest lectures, and students’ weekly “Informed Contributions.” For example, when we focus on air pollution, each student finds a journal or news article related to the U.S. Clean Air Act or the negotiations on climate control. Students then write a short summary and reaction and share it in class. Ross Stavoe, Honors College Senior in Supply Chain Management, says, “The informed contributions are the part of the class that allows students to connect the concepts covered with the stories in the news.
Learning from Students with Diverse Perspectives
Students in GBL 480 come from various undergraduate majors in the Broad College, many of whom are working toward the college’s International Business Specialization. We are joined by M.B.A. candidates, Honors College members, and students wishing to complete one of two campus-wide programs: the MSU Residential Initiative on the Study of the Environment (R.I.S.E.) or the Sustainability Specialization. Of this, Liz Huber, a packaging major who is working toward the Sustainability Specialization, says, “Professor Stenzel’s class opens dialogue about business, economy, culture, law, and social ethics in such a way that the class truly becomes a learning community. Given the wide variety of interests, majors, involvement, backgrounds, etc. that each student has, we find ourselves bringing in many new perspectives, ultimately allowing us to connect the material to our lives and our career goals.”
Learning from the Business Community, Government, and Non-Governmental Organization
Through guest speakers, students are introduced to a wide variety of topics and perspectives. In 2010 Robert Reichel, an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Michigan, spoke about the Asian Carp controversy and related economic and environmental issues in Michigan. Another informative presentation was given by Broad College Alumnus Gail Catron, owner of Kirabo Fair Trade Store in East Lansing. Ms. Catron spoke about on her experiences as an entrepreneur who strives to promote and demonstrate sustainability to the community of East Lansing. At the end of the semester, each student interviews a business person about their organization’s practices related to sustainability and presents his or her findings to the class.
The results of the course
The impact of GBL 480 on its students is summed up by students Sutton Koetje, Ashley Alexander, and Margaret Powers who said, “We did a lot more learning because we were doing a lot more exploring. It makes us want to use this information and apply it to our daily lives. We want to make a difference and implement the things we learned outside of the classroom.”