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Business Leaders Gather to Explore the Impact of Inclusion in the Treasure Valley

The College of Business and Economics (COBE) cohosted the third annual summit on diversity and inclusion as a business driver focused on the impact of inclusion, with more than 150 attendees from across the business community. Held on November 1st, the summit was cohosted by Wells Fargo, the City of Boise, the Boise Valley Economic Partnership (BVEP) and the University of Idaho-Boise.

Dr. Chris Bell presenting the opening keynoteThe Summit keynote address was given by Dr. Christopher Bell, Director of Graduate Studies and Associate Professor of Communications at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, who impressed participants with a demonstration of the strategies used by the media to introduce and reinforce stereotypes and biases along racial and gender lines. Bringing in familiar examples from well-known media companies such as the Disney Company, the audience was encouraged to improve their media literacy and to evaluate the various storylines that exist in our society more critically.

Two panel sessions followed. Angeli Weller, Co-director of Boise State’s Blue Sky Institute, hosted a conversation on financial inclusion with Alejandro Hernandez, Senior Vice President, Wells Fargo; Lisa Cooper, President and Founder, Figure 8 Investment Strategies; and Ben Wright, Idaho Market Manager, Montana & Idaho CDC. Francisco Salinas, Boise State’s Director of Student Diversity and Inclusion, chaired a panel on workplace inclusion that included Trina Ponce, Diversity and Inclusion Program Manager, HP; Toni L. Carter, Inclusion and Diversity Strategy Director, Idaho National Laboratory (INL); Dawn S. Hutchison, Global Integration and Inclusion Manager, Micron Technology; and Alexandria Suggs, Research and Consulting Coordinator, IBIS Consulting Group and Graduate Assistant, Responsible Business Initiative at the College of Business and Economics.

Stacy presenting for The Dignitas AgencyA closing panel was led by Cofounder and Partner of The Dignitas Agency, Stacy Parson, who wove together the discussions on inclusion from the previous speakers to help attendees understand why inclusion is the most critical – and the most difficult – aspect of any diversity effort. Stacy also highlighted inclusion activities ongoing in the community with short presentations from Diane Lachiondo, Director of Community Partnerships, City of Boise; Pete Gombert, CEO, Goodwell; John Tansey, COO, Happy Family Brands; Gayla Thomas-Dabney, EEO/AA Officer, Boise State University; and Donna Llewellyn, Executive Director, Institute for STEM and Diversity Initiatives, Boise State University. The summit was followed by an afternoon hands-on workshop facilitated by The Dignitas Agency offering attendees practice in building collaborative and inclusive work environments.

Emily Erickson, the Director for the Responsible Business Initiative at the College of Business and Economics, noted that “The conference is one of the best ways to get people together in the same room to have these crucial discussions around diversity and inclusion, and where we want to be as a community.” The next summit will be held in the fall of 2018 and Erickson’s team will seek a larger Boise State venue to accommodate the growing interest from the business community.

The summit was made possible by the following sponsors: Boise State’s College of Business and Economics, Wells Fargo, Boise Cascade, City of Boise, Happy Family Brands, Idaho Power, Saint Alphonsus and Micron Technology.

Special thanks are extended to Summit cohosts Wells Fargo, City of Boise, Boise Valley Economic Partnership, and University of Idaho-Boise.

Questions regarding the 2018 Summit, including sponsorship, presentation and attendance opportunities, may be sent to

Nov. 1: Diversity and Inclusion Summit

Diversity and Inclusion as a Business Driver: The Impact of Inclusion

November 1, 2017
Summit: 8:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Workshops: 12:30 – 3:30pm

Ballroom at the new Alumni and Friends Center, Boise State University
1173 W University Drive, Boise, ID 83706

Free parking provided in the Alumni and Friends Center Lot

Questions may be directed to

Register at:

Jan. 27: B Corp Badge Program Workshop

Join the B Corp Badge to work with local B Corps.

Learn more by attending our B Corp Workshop. Our confirmed companies this semester are Treefort Music Fest and Proof Eyewear.

10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
Friday, January 27, 2017
Location TBD

Email to RSVP

To learn about B Corps see the Responsible Business Initiative website.

Jan. 18: B Corp Badge Info Session

Join the B Corp Badge to work with local B Corps.

Learn more by attending our informational session

3:45-4:45 p.m.
Thursday, January 18, 2017
in MBEB 4001

Free Pizza

Can’t attend, but still want info — email

To learn about B Corps see the Responsible Business Initiative website.

Boise B Corp Now Number One B Corporation in the World

Eco2Librium, headquartered in Kenya with a US location in Boise, ID, was recently ranked the highest scoring B Corporation in the world by B Lab.

Eco2Librium’s business ventures include producing and selling energy efficient stoves and biomass waste fuels, selling household solar electricity, restoring indigenous forests in degraded areas of the Kakamega Rainforest in Kenya, and offering micro-financing to local Kenyan entrepreneurs. It became a certified B Corporation in 2014. Today, there are over 1,900 certified B Corporations in 50 countries around the world. According to B Lab, “B Corps meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability, and aspire to use the power of markets to solve social and environmental problems.”

To become a Certified B Corp, Eco2Librium first completed the B Impact Assessment which “assesses the overall impact of your company on its stakeholders.” This generated a B Impact Report for Eco2Libruim. In its first assessment, Eco2Librium received a score of 148, which was more than enough to become a certified B Corporation. This year, Eco2Librium recertified and in the process, they achieved the highest B Corp score ever awarded, 180.

Dr. Mark Lung, CEO of Eco2Librium, said, “When making any business decision we ask ourselves four guiding questions. Will the business activity create jobs? Will it conserve natural resources? Will it improve the livelihoods of the underserved? Will it make a profit that can be reinvested on the ground to continue its enterprises? Yes to all four questions is the change we seek.” To find out more about Eco2Librium check out their B Impact Report and website.

B Lab is “committed to building a global community of Certified B Corporations™ who meet the highest standards of verified, overall social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability.” Eco2Librium achieved the highest standard within this global community, illustrating the bright future of social impact for Boise businesses.

If you would like to learn more about Certified B Corporations, you are encouraged to attend one of the quarterly SBDC Idaho B Corp Workshops.

Community Leaders Gather to Learn about Diversity and Inclusion as a Business Driver

The College of Business and Economics (COBE) cohosted a summit on diversity and inclusion as a business driver with a focus on attracting and retaining top talent in the Treasure Valley. Held on November 17, the summit was a collaboration between COBE, Wells Fargo, the City of Boise, the Boise Valley Economic Partnership (BVEP) and the University of Idaho-Boise.

The morning started off with a powerful keynote address on business responsibility for human rights by Alejandro Hernandez, senior VP at Wells Fargo.

Two panel sessions followed. Panel one comprised Lisa Cooper, Figure 8 Investments; Marwan Sweedan, MD, CTBS; Matthew Burns, Idaho Bureau of Laboratories; Tawna Miles, St. Luke’s Health System and discussed “Our refugee community as a source of top talent.” Shannon Rush-Call, Micron Technology; Joanne Chu, EcoEthos Solutions; Thomas Kellogg, Mentor Artists Playwright Project; and Francisco Salinas, Boise State University, made up the second panel and covered the topic “How to build a workplace culture of inclusion.”

A compelling and eloquent closing keynote was given by Boise State mechanical engineering student, Camille Eddy, who presented both her research on bias in machine learning and shared her experience as an African-American women in tech.

The afternoon comprised hands-on workshops that sought to give attendees practical skills to create inclusion in their workplaces. They included:

  • Creating inclusive meetings using the Collaborative Operating System, led by Joanne Chu, EcoEthos Solutions and Shannon Rush-Call, Micron
  • Finding your voice: playwriting as a tool for workplace inclusion, led by Thomas Dean Kellogg, Mentor Artists Playwright Project (MAPP)
  • From campus to career: a student lunch conversation on inclusion, led by Alejandro Hernandez, senior VP, Wells Fargo

If you judge on the fullness of room, the Diversity and Inclusion Summit was a huge success at more than 130 attendees. But, event organizers are not judging by attendance. Success will only be claimed when attendees complete their action items. Attendees accepted the challenge to publicly post their commitments do doing one thing to make workplaces and our community more inclusive and to report on achievement at the next diversity and inclusion event. Some of those include:

  • Expand diversity on board of directors/leadership team/advisory group/membership.
  • Contact Global Talent Idaho / work with my company to create job placements/externships/internships for refugees.
  • Integrate two new tools in my company’s culture strategy work — Collaborative Operating System and Courageous Conversations.
  • Help create a community coalition for diversity and inclusion.
  • Start a diversity think tank.
  • Expand the ethical discussion in my class to include the role, benefits and importance of diversity and inclusion.

In closing, Angeli Weller, director of the Responsible Business Initiative, asked audience to “remember, this is the beginning, not the end, of an important conversation and there is no more important a time for each one of us to take responsibility for making our workplaces and our community more inclusive.”

2016 COBE Sustainability Report Videos

The College of Business and Economics (COBE) at Boise State recently published the 2016 COBE Sustainability Report. The Responsible Business Initiative is excited to share the findings of the 2016 COBE Sustainability Report through the use of videos highlighting the student reporting process, the key improvement areas, transportation, and waste management.

The 2016 COBE Sustainability Report Executive Summary is available to read below as well.

This report, the second COBE Sustainability Report, was once again researched, written, and produced by 13 graduate and undergraduate students. The students were challenged to develop a responsible business lens by delving into the economic, social, and environmental material issues impacting the College of Business and Economics.

Through their experience on the report, students understand the impact sustainability reporting can have in their educational environment. An example of this is demonstrated by the increased usage of recycled paper content at COBE. In 2015 COBE increased the amount of recycled paper from 0% to 40% paving the way for future progress and delivering real results.

At this point in time, data tracking methods to measure the usage of  alternate transportation for students, faculty and staff are only available at the university level. If the college wishes to calculate total greenhouse emissions in the future, identifying how students and employees are commuting is essential, given that transportation will comprise a large part of this metric. Currently, the college and wider university have a number of programs set in place to encourage more eco-friendly methods of transportation; and progress is being made to better track alternative transportation.

Creating the sustainability report demonstrated the importance COBE stakeholders place on measuring waste. Without knowing how much waste COBE produces, it is challenging to scale back or set goals in reducing the waste generated. Analyzing key areas where COBE is currently lacking allows students to develop innovative methods to close reporting gaps in the future and create real change in the waste management structure.

Executive Summary iconRead the 2016 COBE Sustainability Report Executive Summary

Nov. 10: Hult Prize @ Boise State – Student Pitch Qualifier

The Hult Prize Challenge has challenged students to build a social enterprise to reduce the human cost of involuntary migration.

Join us as ten student teams present a five-minute pitch of their solution to the challenge. A community judging panel will select one of the ten teams to advance to a regional Hult Prize round (scheduled for March in Boston, Dubai, London, San Francisco, and Shanghai).

After the pitch competition there will be a panel of experts who will talk about involuntary migration and answer your questions.

Register here.

Google Map 

Nov. 17: 2016 Diversity Summit

Recruiting and Retaining Top Talent: Diversity and Inclusion as a Business Driver

Registration is closed.

See the summit agenda and speaker list here.

November 17, 2016
Summit: 8:30 a.m. – noon
Workshops: 12:30 – 3:30 p.m.

Ballroom at the new Alumni and Friends Center
Boise State University, 1173 W University Drive, Boise, ID 83706

Free parking for attendees in the Alumni and Friends Center lot.


Why an LGBT-friendly Work Environment is Good for Business

Written By Alexandria Suggs, Career Track MBA 1st Year

The social, political and legal landscape for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people has seen historical changes within the last ten years. Same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide in 2015, 89% of Fortune 500 companies, as of 2014, prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and we are blessed with the Ellen Show every day at 5:00.¹ What more could the LGBT community want?

According to the 2013 Pew survey, the LGBT community also wants workplace protections and an accepting work environment. The survey reported that 57% of LGBT respondents said equal employment rights should be a “top priority,” beating out same-sex marriage.² Flash forward to 2016 and we see that LGBT employees can still be fired for being gay or transgender in 28 states—better hide those newly acquired wedding bands folks.

With how far the United States has come in terms of equality, it’s surprising that the dynamic social environment for the LGBT community has yet to fully carry over to the workplace. For instance, 19 states and Washington D.C. have passed laws preventing LGBT Americans from being discriminated against by employers³ and Boise itself has a non-discrimination ordinance that bans discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Boise joins 11 other cities in Idaho with this type of ordinance, covering 30% of our state’s population.⁴ While progress is being made, there are still some surprising statistics that show the majority (53% to be exact) of LGBT Americans are still in the closet, rather than conversing openly in the breakroom.⁵

So why does this matter for business?

According to The Cost of the Closet and the Rewards of Inclusion, a study by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, LGBT individuals and their allies aren’t the only ones that should be asking for policies and protections for sexual and gender identity in the workplace; businesses should as well. The study shows that LGBT programs and diversity efforts directly correlate with LGBT employee engagement, productivity and effectiveness, overall diversity and inclusion in job applicants, lower turnover and higher retention rates, and apparently $8-9 billion that the U.S. economy and various businesses are potentially missing out on.

In this Human Rights Campaign study, when non-LGBT employees were asked about how often conversations about social relationships and dating come up in the workplace, 80% responded that they occur weekly and often daily. However, with this, 70% of non-LGBT workers agree that “it is unprofessional” to talk about sexual orientation or gender identity in the workplace. When taking these numbers and linking them back to an organization’s overall success, they pose a real problem.

LGBT employees who are out and supported at work, it turns out, are between 20-30% more productive, with 26% having stayed in a job because the environment was accepting. On the other hand, 20% of LGBT workers report looking for a job specifically because the environment wasn’t accepting of LGBT identities, and 9% successfully left a job due to the same reasons.⁴ When looking at these numbers alone, a business without an LGBT-friendly environment are suffering in both employee performance and a higher turnover rate, while diverse and accepting workplace environments are seeing the opposite.

With this in mind, can an accepting workplace environment for LGBT employees drive tangible results within their consumer base as well?

The answer is yes. According to the LGBT 2020 – LGBT Diversity Show Me the Business Case study, the “US economy could save $9 billion annually if organizations were more effective at implementing diversity and inclusion policies for LGBT staff.”¹ This not only results from fewer discrimination lawsuits, but also relates to the market share the LGBT consumers hold. In a national survey conducted by Harris Interactive in 2011, “nearly nine out of ten (87%) LGBT adults said they are likely to consider a brand providing equal workplace benefits. 23% of LGBT adults have switched products or services because a different company was supportive of the LGBT community, even if a brand was costlier or less convenient.”¹ With these numbers, it seems a number of businesses are losing out on the potential gains associated with an LGBT-friendly organization.

So what can businesses do?

Charles Donnell, a Leadership and Management Development Consultant at IMB, gives us some steps to take to foster an LGBT-friendly workplace environment.⁵
1. Create an inclusive atmosphere
Companies can start by creating an LGBT group for employees. Employee resource groups and mentor programs statistically show positive results with 67% of LGBT employees feeling welcomed in these settings.⁴ With this, the company as a whole can illustrate their support by participating in Pride events and LGBT causes throughout the year.

2. Inclusivity stems from leadership
“Clear messages from management on the importance of diversity and acceptance make the company’s stance transparent and create a culture that is clear on its values, on what words and actions it will tolerate and what resources it will make available to employees,” says Donnell.

3. Build diversity into human resource policies
A company can foster an accepting work environment by recruiting with diversity in mind. Reach out to university LGBT groups, enforce structured interviews to remove biases⁶, and have interviewers be held socially accountable in the hiring process to explain why they chose the applicant they did.⁷ And lastly, ensure these inclusive values are shown on the company’s website and social media channels.

Putting these practices into place, among other various steps, can help create an LGBT-friendly work environment. With the evidence showing the positive effects an inclusive and accepting workplace can have, such as fostering more productive, effective and loyal LGBT team members, it’s easy to make the argument that better acceptance leads to better business.

Alexandria Suggs is a marketer and graphic designer in her first year of the Career Track MBA program at Boise State University and is the MBA Intern for the Responsible Business Initiative in the College of Business and Economics. In that role, she is coordinating the upcoming summit on inclusion in business co-sponsored by the College of Business and Economics, Wells Fargo, the City of Boise and the Boise Valley Economic Partnership on November 17, 2106. Contact her directly at