MS in Sustainability Management alum Sarah Gudernatch (’12) knew from the moment she started the program that she wanted to work in corporate sustainability. After having worked in the non-profit and real-estate sectors, she felt that business was where she could really make a difference. As a Sustainability Consultant at Two Tomorrows, an international corporate sustainability company, Sarah works on projects that require her to rely on the knowledge that she gained in the program in order to communicate suggestions and proposals to the company’s various clients.
1. What is your current job?
I am a Sustainability Consultant at Two Tomorrows, a DNV Company. We are at an interesting point in the company’s history as we were recently acquired by DNV, a large firm known mostly for their risk management services. We work in corporate sustainability consulting and do everything from strategy consulting to reporting, assurance, and benchmark reports. Right now, I’m working with one automotive client on a consumer engagement project. We are looking at the best ways to communicate the sustainability features of their products. I am also helping a technology client with their corporate responsibility blog and a food and beverage client with benchmarking themselves against their peers so that they can learn and then create a roadmap to make them more sustainable. Every day is different, which is what I love.
2. Do your current job responsibilities align with the professional goals that you originally had when you began the MSSM program?
When I began the MSSM program, I knew that I wanted to work in corporate sustainability. I had come from the non-profit world and felt that business was really the place I could make the most difference. After an internship at a mid-size corporate real estate firm, where I worked on trying to get a sustainability department up and running, I knew that in-house corporate sustainability wasn’t for me. Luckily, the MSSM program gave me very diverse skills and consulting was a natural fit. I love consulting. Companies bring us in to make change. They are at the point where they need ideas, implementation, and other help and they are really ready to make things happen. It’s very exciting.
3. What skills has the MSSM program taught you that you think have proven useful to your current position?
The MSSM program was extremely valuable in getting my job and I definitely would not be where I am without it. I loved MSSM because of the flexibility. I ended up taking six classes at the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), one at the engineering school, and one at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation (GSAPP) and found myself to be challenged in so many ways. I regularly use my capstone experience (I served as my team’s the project manager) because I am the lead project manager for a few clients and go through very similar exercises: nailing down the scope and deliverable, setting a timeline and goals, managing the client relationship, and executing on the deliverable. I also took an Earth Resources class that has helped me communicate with our oil and gas clients. Topics like fracking come up regularly and I love that I know the science behind it. It helps me make more educated suggestions.
4. What skills and tools do you hope to acquire through this job?
The MSSM program was a sustainability overview. I learned about science, land use planning, sustainability in practice, and the business side of sustainability through finance and economics classes. I’m excited about my job because it delves more into several areas. I’m already becoming proficient in reporting to Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) standards, benchmarking reports, consumer and stakeholder engagement strategies, and am excited for the other tangible skills this job will give me. I’m excited to become an expert in a few things!
5. How has collaborating with your fellow students in class projects benefitted you professionally and personally?
I think that every person that wants to work in business needs to have practice collaborating with others. As a consultant, I regularly work with others in my company and with external specialists. It’s great to have had practice in so many things from delegating work to running a meeting. I’m also quite sure that I will run into many of my fellow students down the road for future professional projects. Hopefully we’ll be able to collaborate on a few things together one day!
6. What kinds of environmental initiatives do you hope to start in your new position?
The best part about working for a company that cares about the environment is that we already have most of the things that I care about in place. We have composting in our office, reusable mugs/plates, a bike rack and incentives (we get paid to bike to work!), an electric vehicle juicing station in the garage downstairs, etc. I’m actually learning more from the company about other ways to be eco-conscious.
7. How do you intend to utilize your degree from the MSSM program to further your career?
I really feel like the MSSM program was the stepping stone that got me into the field. To me it was the initial step that ensured I knew enough to get into the field. I am sure that I will utilize contacts and fellow students in the future as my career progresses.
The M.S. in Sustainability Management, co-sponsored by the Earth Institute and Columbia’s School of Continuing Education, trains students to tackle complex and pressing environmental and managerial challenges. The M.S. in Sustainability Management program requires the successful completion of 36 credit points. Those credit points are divided among five comprehensive content areas: integrative sustainability management, economics and quantitative analysis, the physical dimensions of sustainability, the public policy environment of sustainability management, and general and financial management. Please visit our website to learn more about the program.