Interview by Erica Haye
Richard Stockton College of New Jersey
MAJR: Business Marketing
Hello Matthew Conforti, Business Degree holder and Social Impact Extraordinaire, how are you?
Can you tell us about your experience as a college student? What was your major?
I started as a general Business Administration major but after having new options presented to me, I changed paths. I decided to major in Leadership, Ethics, and Organizational Sustainability.
Was that a big move for you? What caused you to change?
My initial goal for choosing a major and starting a life post-graduation was to sign the best contract for the most amount of money. A degree, for me, was just a piece of paper that I was going to exchange for the biggest paycheck I could get. My concept of business and its powers was limited. I thought the sole objective was to generate profit. After some time going down that road however, it began to feel pretty empty.
It seemed like all of my fellow business students were really excited about careers solely focused on crunching numbers, making a profit at any cost. I began to think, “Is this normal?” “Do I belong in business?”
I was starting to wonder if I’d taken the wrong fork in the road, so I expanded my horizons by attending different club meetings and presentations. It was at one of these presentations where I stumbled upon a new major: Leadership, Ethics, and Organizational Sustainability (LEO). I started to realize it wasn’t that I didn’t belong in business; it’s that business could be done a different way, and should be. LEO ignited a passion in me that is now the driving force my life.
Wow! Tell us more about LEO. Why was it is so captivating for you?
I first learned of LEO during a presentation by the department’s head professor, Ron Dufresne. He spoke about the power of business and its potential for good. He explained the concept of the “purpose economy” that is emerging and how in a few years, there will be a shift in the business world from those that solely want to generate profit, to businesses that want to make money, as well as make a difference. It seemed counter-intuitive to my understanding of business as a profit-generating machine, a monster that had to be fed. He went on to speak about effective techniques for people to become their greatest selves. He spoke about for-profit businesses that also have an equally important social or environmental mission. He spoke about the duty of LEO students to go out and make the business world a better, more ethical place for future generations. His words stirred something inside me.
What was your journey like following your discovery of LEO?
I embarked on the LEO path, first learning about the macrocosm of global issues and how they could be addressed. As students studying LEO, we discovered the kind of decision-making that would be needed to effect real and lasting change. We examined the outcomes of social movements. We destroyed the misconception that some problems are just too big to solve. We learned that none of us are too insignificant to make a change. We also examined the microcosm of individual companies and entrepreneurs who had a vision for the future. These were people who weren’t limited to thinking about short-term goals but wanted to create lasting change.
This all sounds very intriguing. If you had to name the most valuable thing you took from LEO, what would that be?
My major was preparing me for a future where having a positive impact was just as important as making money. We were being molded into professionals who could walk into any business, of any size, in any industry, and be the voice of vision and change.
Can you give us some insight on what you have done with this new-found voice of vision and change? How is your major making a difference?
Since learning the concepts of LEO, I have had the opportunity to put them into practice as a former intern and employee at B Lab.
B Lab is a non-profit organization whose mission is to use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. They do this by certifying companies who are dedicated to making an impact in the world as ‘B’ Corporations. It was an honor to push the business community of B Corporations forward. With over 1000 companies having been certified by B Lab, it is shining a bright light on the possibilities for how being profitable and being good stewards of the planet can go hand-in-hand.
After my opportunity with B Lab, I wanted to continue to work for a company that sees business as a force for good. I have recently joined ReWork, an exciting organization whose mission is grounded in the idea of meaningful work. We place talent in businesses that are making social, environmental, and cultural progress. Our work creates matches between purpose-driven professionals and meaningful companies so that together they can help make a difference. We continue to find that finding the right talent has a lasting impact within these organizations. Making a hire is merely the beginning of a longer relationship and finding the right talent not only meets a specific organizational need, but will help further that organization’s larger mission. Companies use us to scope, source, screen, and help select the right candidates from places to which they would otherwise not have access. In the long run, this entire process saves them time, money, and ensures that they hire the right person for their company and culture.
How has your work in the social impact economy been inspiring for you?
I have had the privilege of speaking with CEOs and employees from other companies about the need for a better way to do business. I am inspired by the creative ways that businesses are making it happen. As I work side by side with other people in the social impact economy, that inspiration fuels my sense of mission. It helps expand my own vision.
It’s hard not to be inspired after hearing your story! Do you have any additional comments about what this all means to you?
I understand now that there is room for morals in business, that mission-based businesses can also have a return for their shareholders. I no longer contemplate what personal morals I am going to have to sacrifice to make money, but rather what good I can help create in the world.
Connect with Matt @con_40 on Instagram
College: Saint Joseph’s University
Major: Leadership, Ethics, and Organizational Sustainability
Hobbies: Hiking, mountain biking, climbing, adventuring
Favorite motivational quote: “As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson