Category Archives: careers

An Interview with Maddie Macks, VP of Academics for the Wharton Graduate Association

Submitted by Mary Johnston, WG’18

Mary conducted an interview with Maddie Macks, VP of Academics for the Wharton Graduate Association. Maddie is in charge of Academics as part of Wharton’s Student Government, and is one of the founding members of the Wharton Sustainability Club.

 

Q: Why is Sustainability an important topic for MBAs?

A: First, resources are finite, and many industries including agribusiness, CPG, manufacturing, and energy rely on these materials for their business. My peers, as future business leaders, will be in positions where they are making supply chain, sourcing and operations decisions and will need to steward these resources to mitigate risk.

Second, while the U.S. federal government is currently trending toward deregulation, this is not the trend globally, as evidenced by The Paris Agreement. Many of my peers will be working in international companies where these regulations will be increasingly relevant.

Further, business decisions can have a big impact on local communities. For example, public health can be heavily impacted by water and air quality, and degradation of local ecosystems can impact livelihoods.

 

Q: What are other top business schools doing in their Sustainability Curricula?

A: They are ramping up their sustainability presence, offering certificates and more specific coursework. Many are integrating sustainability more into their core curriculum to ensure all students are educated on environmental issues in business. Almost all top business schools have sustainability-focused student clubs to build a community in the space on campus. Stanford, Sloan, Ross, and Yale are a few prime examples of schools that are increasing their presence in the space, and it’s attracting top students.

 

Q: What does Wharton do well now in terms of Sustainability?

A: Wharton has partnered with IGEL to offer the Environmental & Risk Management Major, which is one of the things that attracted me to Wharton. The Energy Club, Social Impact Club, and Agribusiness Club have sustainability-related programming, and as of this year, we have a group of about thirty students starting the Wharton Sustainable Business Coalition, a new club that will be up and running by Fall 2017. This group of students has also gotten to know each other well during the Energy Club’s clean energy trek to San Francisco as well as several student-run happy hours.

 

Q: What are the biggest opportunities for Wharton to increase the presence of Sustainability in the curriculum in the short term?

A: There are two things I think Wharton can do in the short term.

First, Wharton could incorporate more Environmental Responsibility content into the Business Ethics core requirement. This would help ensure that every Wharton student gets more exposure to how decision-making can have environmental consequences.

Second, Wharton could proactively ensure all relevant graduate coursework from around Penn related to Sustainable Business topics is cross-listed with Wharton to help facilitate students taking these classes. For example, the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences has several great courses.

 

Q: And how about the long term?

A: Wharton has an opportunity to continue to develop coursework related to sustainability and look into hiring more faculty who can teach courses and do research in the area. Wharton has such a huge opportunity to influence future business leaders’ decision-making, and making sustainability more present in Wharton’s curriculum would speak volumes to the issue’s importance. For example, the Environmental Risk & Management Major does a great job covering risk management, and I would love to see innovation and the financial implications of environmental choices highlighted more prominently as well. I also think there are opportunities to offer more sustainability courses as part of the Business Economics and Public Policy, Operations, Information, and Decisions, and Management Majors to name a few. Incorporating more of a focus on sustainability, can help Wharton stay on the cutting edge of business trends.

Interviews: Paving the Way Towards a Future of Sustainability in Business Education

By: Elena Rohner, Graduate IGEL Coordinator.  April 12th, 2017

Solutions for improving sustainability in business education often center on creating integrated, cross-disciplinary courses or concentrations; yet this requires a large investment of time and resources. It can take at least a semester to put together the syllabus, materials and teaching tools for a new course, not to mention the time dedicated to overcoming administrative bureaucracy. Therefore, one of the best solutions that business schools can employ to better prepare students for roles in sustainability is: get them talking to professionals!

I recently interviewed two leaders in sustainability for a final assignment in a course called Leading Change for Sustainability (ENVS 682) taught by Penn alum and Sustrana Sr. Associate, Kim Quick and Penn’s Sustainability Director, Dan Garofalo. One interviewee was Todd Hoff, VP of Marketing and Customer Solutions at CHEP North America. Hoff reiterated, in a more nuanced manner, strategies and take-aways commonly touted in the sustainability world. He also shared stories of achievements and challenges, highlighting the seemingly basic pathways and pitfalls of sustainability that continue to pervade industry and create unsolved barriers to sustainability.

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Here are some of my take-aways from our conversation:

  • People don’t know what sustainability is…
    • Sustainability remains an enigma—a concept widely misunderstood with a different definition according to pretty much anyone you ask. Many business executives define sustainability as a strategic force in leadership where an organization makes impactful choices that preserve economic and environmental resources.
    • Hoff shared that sustainability should not be understood as something separate from the business activities. Business can make a difference through business itself, and as a result sustainability should be embedded in the decision-making and the core operations of the company. Hoff also finds peoples’ confusion about sustainability to be the most challenging aspect of working as a sustainability proponent. He highlights the example of employees confusing a sustainability initiative with office supply recycling. And, while recycling is one facet of “sustainability,” it is only that. A single and siloed leverage point. People fail to understand the need for a multifaceted approach to sustainability. As an example, Todd shared his experience at Brambles, the parent company of CHEP, where they have a multi-faceted sustainability strategy including Better Planet, Better Business, and Better Community. http://www.brambles.com/sustainability
  • Having a growth mindset is key:
    • A lot of class time in ENVS 682 is spent identifying and leveraging strengths and mindset. Hoff, whose team just took the Gallup Strength Finder questionnaire, said his results were: relator, learner, arranger, achiever, and includer. Hoff also highlighted his growth mindset when it comes to work—he is motivated by the work itself and the constant growth and learning involved in his role. It is clear that a successful sustainability, or any business, leader has a growth mindset, strong communication skills, and a talent for seeing and making connections.
  • Adam Grant got it right.
    • In class we saw Adam Grant’s quote, “The stories we tell ourselves shape what we do. If you believe people are fundamentally selfish, you will act in ways that make it true.” This stuck with me, so I asked Hoff what he thought about the quote and whether it held relevance for his work. He agreed with Grant and without me bringing up the concept of positive psychology, Hoff gave a great example of how he lives by this concept every day. Hoff noted his learner strength and that he tries to always stay positive in his learning approach. He said that “it’s all related”—that is, successfully managing a large diverse team and achieving the results he wants to see.
  • Surprise! Money plays a critical role:
    • Hoff highlighted how financials are always a motivating factor in any sustainability conversation. He spoke about the “business sense” argument as an invaluable strategy when working with people who are not on board with a sustainability initiative. In other words, he makes sure to include the environmental benefits of the service or product, but what truly seals the deal is conveying how a client can also make or save money. His strategy is to sell the “Win-Win” concept. In this sense, money is the problem solver—it creates a common ground, a business language that everyone speaks and understands. And many, myself included, agree with this idea.

As I hope was conveyed above, interviews and coffee chats are an incredibly rewarding experience for students in any field. From the student and professional’s perspective, the benefits of an interview are a win-win, including:

  • Students learn insider tips
  • Professionals share anecdotes that highlight key, industry-specific take-aways
  • Both parties build their network

And, the best part about interviews is the minimal infrastructure and planning required—all you need is a phone and 20-30 minutes of someone’s day.

 

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Education and the Sustainability Professional of the Future

By Neelam Ferrari

Many of my posts talk about the numerous global issues that are related to sustainability, and more particularly, how these important topics relate to human health and nutrition. As food and nutrition security will likely become defining societal issues over the coming decades, and we see no slowdown in the evolution of technological progress, the demands of sustainability professionals working in fields related to these topics need to be responsive to emerging global trends. These trends include not only environmental components, but also encompass changes in business, socioeconomics, technology and culture. When we hear the term sustainability, we often immediately focus on the environment and natural resources. While this is appropriate, it is only a piece of the broader puzzle. The definition, and the acknowledgement of topics related to sustainability encompasses perspectives from many different fields ranging from finance to medicine. Therefore, the foundation education for future sustainability professionals must embrace a multidisciplinary approach, while also emphasizing depth in one or more of the related components.

I can think about this from my own perspective as I will be entering college in the fall. After college, I plan to embark on a career in medicine. However, I plan to do more than practice in a clinical setting. In addition to working directly with patients, I also want to work to address some of the issues that are at the root of the development of disease, and I believe that many of these issues can be addressed through the lens of sustainability. Some of these sustainability/health issues center around access to a clean and plentiful water supply; this brings in the perspective of science and engineering. Others relate to food and nutrition, which can include genetics, biotechnology and education. In addition, we can connect some diseases to the lack of access to markets, which includes knowledge of economics, politics and business. From these high level examples, it is clear to me that while my primary education will focus on medicine and biotechnology, I will also need to develop a foundation in other contributing fields that are part of the sustainability spectrum.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Platform has been a leader in highlighting the importance of education in meeting sustainability goals. Further, education has been selected as one of the priority areas to help advance their agenda. As we broaden our definition of what a sustainability professional is, we can start to see that no matter what your primary occupation might be, a sustainability emphasis can be incorporated into your job and this is important in truly making effective strides towards addressing global problems. Core curriculum emphasizing sustainability subjects is a start, and supplementing this with ties to the business world, such as those developed at Wharton IGEL at Penn, Columbia’s The Earth Institute, and the NYU Stern Center for Sustainability, are great examples that other institutes can emulate.

Who Are Change Agents of Sustainability?

By David Mazzocco, LEED AP, Associate Director of Sustainability and Projects, The Wharton School

The University of Pennsylvania becomes the first Ivy League school to commit to the American College and University Presidential Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) with President Amy Gutmann’s signature in 2007. A grassroots citizens group implements a municipal climate action plan and achieves their goals ahead of schedule while saving taxpayer money. A corporation meets its promise to eliminate any negative impact on the environment while transforming the marketplace and increasing their profit. These are great successes, but underlying this success is creating and maintaining the momentum for a successful environmental movement.

Who does this? Are they business owners, citizens, employees, presidents? In many ways, yes. More succinctly, they are change agents who act as a catalyst for change. A “change agent” can take many forms. It is not necessarily a singular person, authority figure or entity, but it does, however, require a clear vision and an ability to clearly communicate the vision with others. A change agent invariably involves many traits: passion, networker, driven, communicator, leader. Change agents are willing to be patient, yet persistent, ask the tough questions, be knowledgeable, lead by example and develop strong relationships built on trust. When furthering sustainability initiatives, we are all instrumental in implementing change and achieving a goal. However, recognizing and working with all change agents is critical to the success of any sustainability mission.

The success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts, but also the culture and time in which they exist. They are able to see and define the issue but also have the vision and ability towards a solution while inspiring others to support the mission. The change agent is also willing to step out of their comfort zone, taking risk to create reward and creating behavior that brings the future to the present by envisioning the possible and persuading others to help make it a reality.

These are all questions and characteristics we must identify and support as we build a better environmental future. The best leaders may have all of these qualities but they also empower others to be those “change agents.” When you effectively leverage the natural strengths of your team, we achieve greater successes.

Introducing the Young Environmental Professionals Network of Philadelphia

By Bert Barnes, IGEL Graduate Coordinator & second-year MES student

The Philadelphia area is characterized by a wide variety of industries, including medicine, education, financial services, telecommunications, and manufacturing. Over time, numerous institutions have sprung up to aid the development of the professionals working in these industries. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for environmental services, an integral but often-overlooked part of the area’s economic and social fabric.

As an environmental professional who has worked for years in the Philadelphia area, I’m familiar with numerous professional organizations, from the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce to the smaller, specialized organizations. Only one cultivates relationships across functions within the environmental services industry and related fields: Society for Women Environmental Professionals, which is restricted to women. As the environmental dimension of law, insurance, and other disciplines continues to grow in importance (and as Philadelphia emerges as a leader in sustainability), one must wonder why the professional landscape lacks an organization that unites young professionals within these roles.

We are launching the Young Environmental Professionals Network of Philadelphia (YEPN) in response to this void. YEPN will be a place for young professionals working in environmental fields to connect, learn, and develop. Professionals from all of Philadelphia’s industries will be represented within the organization. Already, we have received interest from people in consulting, law, energy, insurance, and engineering. If you’re interesting in learning more, check out our LinkedIn and Facebook groups. Feel free to contact me with questions, as well.

The first YEPN happy hour is taking place from 6 to 8pm on Tuesday, September 27 at Crow and The Pitcher, just south of Rittenhouse Square on 19th Street. Chris Crockett, Chief Environmental Officer of Aqua America, will be speaking at the event. If you have found yourself pondering the questions mentioned above, or if you’re just interested in learning more about your fellow environmental professional and the opportunities in the Philadelphia area, I would encourage you to attend!

Following the Green Brick Road with MES and IGEL to Real-World Sustainability

By: Nathan Sell*

January to July 2014 were the quickest and perhaps busiest months of my life to date. As a Masters student in the Environmental Studies program at Penn I was finishing up my degree, joining the Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (IGEL) team, and job hunting. My time at IGEL was an invaluable experience in many ways. I joined in the thick of event planning just as the annual conference and a host of other events were all being planned.  This “trial by fire” had me leveraging my new knowledge as an MES student, as well as my educational background, and building a new set of communications and outreach skills.

I was in awe at the audience that IGEL has and the power that its events have to bring together leaders in sustainability and push the discussion on what companies can do for business and the environment. A lot of the skills I refined while at IGEL both caught the attention of my current employers and have served me well in my new role.

As a participant in the ORISE (Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education) program, I’m working with the EPA Office of Water at the headquarters in Washington, DC. As part of the Climate Change Team, I work on issues closely tied to sustainability.  Balanced between communications and research, a portion of my work is dedicated to facing EPA’s message to the public through social media and outreach. My research at the moment focuses on “Blue Carbon,” carbon sequestered within coastal marine ecosystems such as mangroves, sea grass beds, and salt marshes. Blue Carbon is getting a lot of attention, and for good reason. These ecosystems are shown to store carbon up to 100X faster than terrestrial ecosystems such as forests, and store this carbon for incredibly long periods of time. They’re part of the puzzle to building climate change resilience. Seeing how policy can be leveraged for additional protection and expansion of these threatened environments, and seeing where business can build blue carbon into international carbon markets are some of the drivers that will be increasingly important in the future.  It’s an exciting intersection of science, policy and business that I’m thrilled to be working on, and an amazing way to begin putting my MES degree and IGEL experience to use.

*Nathan is the former IGEL Coordinator and currently works with the EPA Office of Water on their Water Policy Staff.  @mister_sells

TNC is hiring a Lead Scientist

The Nature Conservancy, a sponsor of Wharton IGEL,  is hiring a Lead Scientist with a PhD, post-doctoral experience and at least 10 years of related expertise in areas such as ecosystem services, anthropology, economics, rural sociology, psychology, human geography, etc. Check out the job description to find out more about this opportunity. Mention that you found this posting on the Wharton IGEL blog.

IGEL’s Careers in Sustainability Event: An Evening of Discussion About Sustainability, Energy and Business

By Marissa Rosen*

On Wednesday, October 3rd, Wharton’s MBA Career Management department and Wharton’s Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (IGEL) co-hosted the second annual “Careers in Sustainability, Energy, and Business” panel at Huntsman Hall. The brightly lit 8th floor Colloquium Hall buzzed with chatter and enthusiasm from a mixture of Penn students, faculty, and staff who were eager to hear from a dozen business and environmental professionals from across the United States, half of whom were Wharton graduates.

In opening remarks, Vice Dean of the MBA program Howard Kaufold paid homage to Barry Commoner, a leader in the emerging environmental movement of the 1960’s, famous for stating that “everything must go somewhere”. Kaufold explained how Commoner’s words ring true fifty years later, as the examination of the symbiosis of economics and social impact is more necessary now than ever before. Continue reading

Job Opportunity with FMC: Sustainability Engineer

FMC, a Sponsor of IGEL,  is looking for a Sustainability Engineer to fill a position in its Philadelphia office. For more details: Sustainability Engineer Job DescriptionApply on the company’s website and mention that you found this posting on the IGEL’s blog.