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Best practices in sustainable business honored

Sustainability award winners and student groupThe makers of a synthetic fiber made from recycled plastic bottles and the co-founder of a venture capital firm at the forefront of impact investing were honored at the 2018 UNC Sustainability Awards hosted by the Center for Sustainable Enterprise (CSE) and the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise May 10, 2018.

Unifi Manufacturing, Inc. received the inaugural 2018 Distinguished Business in Sustainability Award. Unifi makes REPREVE®, a fabric created from recycled bottles and used to make everything from car seats to yoga wear. UNC Kenan-Flagler recognized the firm for its earth-friendly products and enterprise-wide sustainability practices.

Dave Kirkpatrick (MBA ’91), co-founder and managing director of SJF Ventures, one of the oldest impact-investing funds in the U.S., received the fifth annual 2018 Distinguished Alumni in Sustainability Award.

Also honored were members of the MBA Class of 2018 who graduated with an enrichment concentration in sustainable enterprise and student leaders of Net Impact and the Energy Club.

Best in practice

Unifi CEO“Unifi is honored to be recognized by UNC as a leader in developing innovative, environmentally-friendly practices as part of our business model,” said Kevin Hall, CEO of Unifi, based in Greensboro, North Carolina.

The new award recognizes leadership and best practices in environmental and business sustainability for North Carolina enterprises, with a focus on exceptional commitment to initiative, innovation and impact.

“The Center for Sustainable Enterprise has been a thought leader in sustainability for almost 20 years,” said Albert Segars, PNC Distinguished Professor of Strategy and Entrepreneurship and CSE faculty director. “There are also many businesses in North Carolina that have been innovative leaders in sustainable enterprise, in some cases for much longer than 20 years. We thought it was time to highlight the positive stories of those organizations and highlight their leadership in building profitable as well as sustainable models of business.”

“At Unifi we have a passion and commitment for developing sustainable performance solutions that go into products everyone can feel good about wearing and buying,” Hall said. “We are incredibly grateful for our partnership with UNC as we are recognized for best practices in sustainable enterprise.”

Investing pioneer

KirkpatrickKirkpatrick has been at the forefront of impact investing for almost 20 years. SJF Ventures has invested in more than 50 companies that innovate in technology, sustainability and resource efficiency, from brokers of pre-owned laboratory equipment to manufacturers of natural cosmetics and cleaning products.

“We are pleased to present the 2018 Distinguished Alumni in Sustainability Award to someone who has had such positive influence on the growth of companies that in-turn have a positive impact on the world,” said Olga Hawn, professor of strategy and entrepreneurship and the Sustainability Distinguished Fellow. “Dave is a pioneer in the impact investing field and his work exemplifies best practice in this space.”

Kirkpatrick – who received the Executive MBA Alumni Merit Award in 2010 – first founded and managed SunShares, a solar energy and recycling company. After he earned his MBA in the Evening MBA Program from UNC Kenan-Flagler, he started KirkWorks, a clean-tech investment research firm, before founding SJF Ventures in 1999.

SJF invests in high-growth, positive-impact companies. Its industry focus areas include solar energy, energy efficiency, recycling and reuse, and mobility. Kirkpatrick has helped lead SJF’s capitalization of four funds totaling to $260 million of assets under management.

“I am honored to join the Center for Sustainable Enterprise’s list of distinguished alumni in sustainability,” said Kirkpatrick. “At SJF Ventures we invest in companies with sustainable and positive-impact business models which drive great investment results. UNC’s Kenan-Flagler alumni have been key team members at SJF and several of our portfolio companies. We anticipate many more sustainability innovators from the Business School to be the impact investors and entrepreneurs of the future.”

CSE has recognized leaders in sustainable enterprise from different fields and industries with the alumni award:

  • Lisa Shpritz (MBA ‘05 ), senior VP of environmental operations at Bank of America
  • Brett Smith (MBA ’94), founder and president of Counter Culture Coffee
  • Napoleon Wallace (MBA ’10), deputy secretary for the North Carolina Chamber of Commerce
  • Katie Kross (MBA ’04), former CSE director and managing director of the Center for Energy, Development and the Global Environment at Duke

Leading the School’s work is the Center for Sustainable Enterprise (CSE). Founded in 1999, CSE convenes and shares thought leadership in research, education and best practice. Its goal is to empower business leaders in their quest for shareholder value while exercising environmental stewardship and promoting economic development and growth.