The NC State Jenkins MBA Student Association in partnership with the local women entrepreneurship group e51 hosted NC State’s first inaugural Innovative Women’s Conference October 23-24. The conference was designed to solve challenges facing business innovation, science, technology and entrepreneurship by bringing Triangle-area females—graduate students, entrepreneurs and corporate executives—together.

Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer of Red Hat, DelIsa Alexander delivered the keynote address about building resilience for innovation, encouraging audience members to lead a fulfilling, healthy and balanced lifestyle. Among the variety of sessions held at the Talley Student Center, Jeannie Sullivan led a creativity in leadership workshop, exploring five ways to embrace creativity at work through your strengths, and Stacey Traviglia and Heather Amato, scientists at Biogen Idec, led the women in science conversation and shared their insights on innovation within scientific fields.

Evolvemint was honored to be a part of the “Leadership in Sustainability” panel alongside Paula Alexander, director of sustainable business at Burt’s Bees and Maria Kingery, co-founder and CEO of Southern Energy Management. The most compelling take away from this discussion was that sustainability can be a driving force of innovation and long-term cost savings regardless of your industry. But your perspective matters, and you have to define what sustainability means to you in order to develop clear and accountable metrics for your venture. 

The Integration of Sustainability Within the Fashion Industry 

I spoke about fashion and sustainability through experiences I have encountered with Evolvemint since its inception in 2012. The April 2013 tragedy of Rana Plaza in Bangladesh largely contributed to the global awareness surrounding the human cost of making apparel. One year later, April 24th is commemorated as Fashion Revolution Day. People around the world are asked to wear their clothing inside out and to hold brands accountable by asking,”Who made your clothes?”  Brands such as H&M are now creating sustainable collections to address fast fashion and fair wage concerns. 

Social media has also played an integral role in moving the fashion and sustainability agenda forward. People around the world were able to express themselves through pictures and powerful phrases that reflected events in their country within seconds of them occurring. This form of expression allowed for tragedies and celebratory moments in the fashion industry to be exposed in an unbiased yet eye-opening manner. 

Two major lessons learned on how to approach sustainability from the fashion industry:

  1. You can be proactive instead of reactive. Do not wait for a tragedy to happen in your industry. Learn about the complexity of your supply chain, identify the gaps/unknowns, and hold yourself accountable to find answers. This level of awareness will help you innovate, save money, and develop a reputable company brand as you handle challenges upfront while minimizing potential surprises. 
  2. Social media can help you identify varying perspectives within your industry. By listening to your stakeholders, you can asses market demand, strengthen relationships among industry peers/audiences, and lead thought-provoking/impactful discussions. 

Creating Your Personal+Professional ‘Sustainability Footprint’ 

We spent a lot of time on this panel not only talking about sustainability within our respective industries, but how anyone can be a part of integrating sustainability within their own companies. Here are the three most critical things you can do to create this footprint. 

  1. Define what sustainability means to you and use that definition as a way to guide your company’s vision and mission.
  2. Think about the small wins and develop milestones to reach those goals. 
  3. Ask questions and be curious. It’s okay to hold your vendors and strategic partners accountable. 

All panel discussions and and workshops contributed to developing a positive and encouraging entrepreneurial environment for women in the Triangle area. This Innovative Women’s Conference is expected to be an annual event. To find out more information about the Innovative Women’s Conference sponsors, speakers and organizers click here