As part of its spring event series, the Center for Ethical and Sustainable Business will host a speaking engagement with journalist Leon Kaye on Wednesday, April 3rd.

Leon KayeLeon, whose primary focus includes making the business case for sustainability and corporate social responsibility, currently writes for the UK’s Guardian and San Francisco’s Triple Pundit. His discussion will explore the relationships and correlations among climate change, business and the media, as well as reasons behind the topic’s reputation as “uncomfortable”.

His work has also been featured in Inhabitat, Sustainable Brands, Earth911 and the AIA’s Architect Magazine. Leon also focuses on sustainability trends around the world, including Qatar, Korea, Brazil and sustainable development in post conflict societies in The Balkans and the Middle East. A Cupertino native, he currently lives in Fresno, which he considers home. He has a B.A. from California State University-Fresno, an M.A. from the University of Maryland-Baltimore County and an M.B.A. from the University of Southern California. With travels to 60 countries, his most recent trip was a journalism fellowship with the International Reporting Project in India.

Additional details:

Date: Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Time: 5:00 - 6:00 PM

Location: San Francisco State University Downtown Campus, Fishbowl Room


This past November, for the second consecutive year, the SF State Center for Ethical and Sustainable Business exhibited at the SF Green Festival and connected with dozens of current and potential stakeholders.

Professors Caterina Tantalo, Bruce Paton (Chair of SF State’s  Department of Management) and Mark Starik (CESB Director) spent several hours at the 2-day festival, meeting with current MBA and BA/BS students, SF State alumni, prospective DBA students and many other new friends, including dozens of other festival exhibiting businesses and non-profit organizations. 

SF State was one of only a handful of educational institutions represented at the gathering. Many other organizations displayed their green products and services, ranging  from solar energy installations to organic food and clothing.  Though the CESB booth was continuously busy, its representatives worked in shifts, allowing each to visit and speak with other organizational displays.

Professor Starik remarked that he was fortunate to find multiple green gifts to send to my family members, since the festival was held just before the holidays.  The festival’s atmosphere included music, speakers and free samples, all of which combined to connect sustainability with fun: A phenomenon that many green marketers suggest needs to happen more often.  

The real value for the CESB, however, was the opportunity to network with so many SF State stakeholders. If you are able to attend the 2013 SF Green Festival on November 9th or 10th (registration is only $10 per day), make sure you stop by our booth and let us know how we can help one another “go green”!

(Photos coming soon…)


by Roddy Louie, San Francisco State University MBA Candidate, 2012

On Monday 11/5, John O’Meara, Instructor and Director of Strategic Operations at the Department of Management at the University of San Francisco, and Mark Stiving, pricing expert and author of Impact Pricing: Your Blueprint for Driving Profits, spoke to students at the downtown campus (DTC) about the ethical issues involved with how companies market and price their products and services.


John O'MearaJohn began his discussion by defining three primary objectives firms strive for in marketing: creating value for customers, building healthy customer relationships, and capturing value in return for shareholders. Too often, companies overemphasize capturing value for shareholders to the detriment of the other two objectives. Examples of this include fast food establishments offering unhealthy food in increasingly larger quantities to entice more sales, leading to societal health problems. Or, auto manufacturers that push for SUV sales seeking greater profits, despite exacerbating the oil dependency and global warming problems. 

Marketers have developed a wide variety of techniques for capturing value from consumers. Cereal manufacturers are particularly skilled at marketing to children, using toys and freebies to create strong associations to cartoon characters, driving demand for their brands. Another common marketing technique is planned obsolescence, in which consumer electronics are designed with short useful lives, after which they must be replaced with newer models, encouraging waste and overconsumption. 

The ethical alternative to this is societal marketing, in which firms focus their marketing efforts on creating value equally for shareholders, customers, the community, and the environment. John brought up the example of outdoor clothing retailer Patagonia, whose sales staff is trained to ask customers whether they really need to buy items before trying to sell them anything. Despite this unusual sales tactic, Patagonia continues to profit, showing that it is possible for a company to be both responsive to the market and responsible to its multitude of stakeholders.


Mark StivingMark’s talk covered the various ways in which companies use pricing to extract as much value as possible from customers. These practices range from common to uncommon, ethical to unethical. Common pricing practices considered to be ethical include using pricing psychology, value based pricing for software, and implicit collusion with competitors. Common but unethical pricing practices include lying during negotiations in order to secure the best deal possible. Unethical and uncommon practices include explicit collusion, price gouging during disasters, predatory pricing to drive out competitors, and price segmentation based on race.  Mark and students then discussed their opinions of the gray areas of ethical pricing, such as when hair salons and laundromats segment price based on gender, and when various service industries segment price based on age. For more information on pricing practices and Mark’s book, visit his website at http://markstiving.com.


by Roddy Louie, San Francisco State University MBA Candidate, 2012

Neil CohenOn Tuesday 11/6, Neil Cohen, VP of marketing at Visage and lecturer in the College of Business at SF State, led a discussion with Bruce Carlisle, CEO and founder of Conference Hound, and Koka Sexton, Director of Social Strategy at InsideView. The group discussed how social media has changed the way employers and employees interact, and the ethical issues involved with how social media is monitored and used by companies in both hiring and marketing.

Social Media for Employers

In recent years, the growing popularity of social media sites like LinkedIn and Facebook has led to employers these sites for red flags on job applicants. While LinkedIn is a site designed specifically for career-building and management, the question of whether employers should be looking at applicants’ Facebook accounts is more unclear. It can be argued that people’s social lives are a private matter and should not be taken as an indicator of potential work performance, but in practice many employers will take any opportunity available to prevent making potentially costly hiring mistakes, including searching an employee’s Facebook account. Koka recalled one such story of a public school teacher that was fired when Facebook photos of her drinking alcohol were leaked to parents and the school district.

Bruce CarlisleBruce made the point that social media services are optional, and when people choose to use them they take on the burden of keeping their own data secured and sanitized for whoever may be watching. This is not an easy task, as Facebook privacy settings change on a seemingly monthly basis, and it is easy to neglect important settings. The bottom line is that employees and jobseekers must be constantly vigilant and proactive about what aspects of their private lives they expose through social media, since anything on those sites is potentially available to the entire web. Moreover, jobseekers increasingly need to create and manage their digital persona, which can consist of LinkedIn and Twitter accounts and blogs, to gain recognition in the industries they wish to work in. This gives them more exposure and differentiates them from other candidates in the eyes of hiring managers, but also raises the ethical dilemma of whether companies should be judging applicants based on their online popularity.

Social Media for Marketers

Koka SextonJust because data exists, should a marketer have it? This question cuts to the heart of ethical marketing in social media. Some hotels are already discriminating their services via social media, by letting customers known to post frequent Facebook and Twitter messages have free add-ons, in hopes that they will spread a favorable word for those hotels to their social circles. Koka stressed the importance of how companies must watch for and make ethical decisions regarding their use of social media. One example of that was when a Papa John’s customer tweeted a picture of a racist remark left by a store employee on her receipt. The tweet went viral, and the Papa John’s CEO did the right thing by immediately releasing an apology, owning up to the mistake, and promising corrective actions. All the speakers agreed that privacy would be the biggest issue to watch for in coming years, as social media continues to pervade all aspects of our personal and professional lives. (Roddy Louie, MBA Sustainable Business Emphasis candidate 2012)


Within San Francisco State University, there exists a longstanding commitment to equity and social justice. The University’s College of Business (CoB), in line with this tradition, founded a regional Center for Ethical and Sustainable Business (CESB) in 2011 to leverage the growing momentum among businesses to implement socially and environmentally responsible business practices. Its tagline, “Where Responsibility Meets Opportunity,” reflects the CESB’s mission to promote positive social change by leveraging the dynamic energy of private enterprise.  The CESB is located at the University’s downtown San Francisco campus, serving as an innovative hub for social and environmental research, teaching and outreach to the Bay Area business community. 

CESB Kickoff Crowd

In October 2012, the CESB hosted the Bay Area business community at a kickoff event in San Francisco’s vibrant SoMA neighborhood. Designed to be a fun, interactive celebration, the event featured entertainment and experiences from companies and organizations within the region that have integrated sustainability and ethics into their business operations. Guests were able to experience each organization in a hands-on, interactive way, with such activities as dressing up and posing for pictures in eco-friendly clothing company BeGood’s photo booth.

BeGood Photo Booth 

Other exhibitors included the CESB’s co-host, B Lab (the non-profit behind B Corporations), and CHEER San Francisco, a performance troupe that donates its proceeds to service organizations. Refreshments were provided by Revolution Foods and ONEHOPE Wine.

By participating in the CESB’s 2012 Kickoff Celebration, these businesses and organizations, of varying sizes, afforded themselves the opportunity to highlight and promote their social and environmental sustainability programs. In cultivating relationships with party guests and the Center itself, partnerships were built to support existing sustainability efforts, as well as develop new ones.

CESB Ethics Week

To learn more about the CESB and how your business can contribute to or participate in its mission, visit http://cob.sfsu.edu/sustainable-center, or keep in touch with us via Facebook and Twitter.