We enjoyed a great visit this past Thursday from Samantha and Andrea Wittchen (pictured above with some of our MBA students), principals of iSpring Associates, a sustainability consultancy.
They met with faculty, students, career services staff and gave a talk titled "Achieving Competitive Advantage with Sustainability" which was attended by undergraduate and graduate students.
iSpring shared from their 10 years of experience working with large companies (like Kraft) to universities (like UPenn). Some key points from my notes:
women face unique challenges in the workplace which change across the field of sustainability. Troubling but good to hear another candid view that women continue to face institutionalized discrimination and micro-aggressions, even in sustainability. They shared that while facilities and operations departments are heavily male-oriented, many sustainability roles are held by women and so their work cuts across both areas.
if you are interested in getting into sustainability, focus on developing an area of expertise. Then use those skills to land you a job, acquire experience and then seek opportunities to contribute to the firm's environmental and social impact. It is also recommended to keep current with the new types of jobs in the field.
sustainability is not a department but is everyone's job. They went through each major business function and explained it's unique contribution to sustainability. This is very much aligned with Smeal's approach: integrating it across all majors. For example, if a sourcing professional isn't adding environmental criteria (e.g. for reducing or eliminating disposable packaging) and social impact criteria (e.g. to protect human and labor rights, fair wages, etc) to RFPs and contracts, who will? And if a sales person isn't articulate in a product or service's sustainability attributes and how they add value (e.g. convenience, cost and impact, meaning) for the customer, who will?
Look for more speakers and visitors at least once a month during the academic year.