Start-up spark

Professor DesireƩ Pacheco

Portland Professorship funds cutting-edge business research 

School of Business Prof. Desirée Pacheco researches the barriers and opportunities new environmentally-conscious companies face when they enter fields dominated by long-established industries. 

Whether it’s wind power breaking into a market supported by fossil fuel, or sustainable apparel companies competing against bigger, more polluting clothing corporations, she wants to know: How can these upstart companies gain a foothold in a way that makes everyone win?

To get answers, she enlists graduate students to sift through mounds of information – a laborious process that takes time and money.“You have to get the data yourself, and that takes a lot of manpower,” she says.

And that’s why she was overjoyed last spring when she was named a Portland Professor, providing her the support she needs to continue her research.
The Professorship will go a long way in helping Pacheco’s current work in studying sustainable apparel. She began her research after learning that apparel is one of the most polluting industries in the world, second only to oil. It’s also known for poor, dangerous working conditions. She wanted to know what clothing companies are trying to address those problems.

“We started with nothing. I thought we’d find 50, maybe 100 in the U.S. We’re now up to 360. These are companies on a social or environmental mission or both,” she says.

Although her work looks at the intersection of business and the environment, she’s really looking for something bigger, a quality shared by many of her peers at PSU.

“I’ve always had a desire to study transformational change.”