Navigating the Changing Landscape of Sustainability
Born into a family of academics and scholars, Sargam Saraf realized at an early age she had big shoes to fill—thus, she decided to help save the planet. Saraf found the diverse and versatile nature of the environmental sciences the most appealing. Through her undergraduate degree, she was able to learn about environmental policies, atmospheric and oceanic sciences, green accounting and more. During a research project, Saraf realized what was most important to her: doing impactful work in a collaborative environment.
The MS in Sustainability Management (SUMA) program at Columbia University was an easy decision to make. SUMA offers multidisciplinary courses in science, business, policy and more, with the option to take courses in different departments at Columbia University. To Saraf, this was an excellent opportunity to build her career further as a sustainability professional. She found a lot of her learnings came through the eclectic student body.
“Diversity at Columbia gives ‘diversity’ a whole new meaning. The room is full of demographically diverse students and professions—you will find yourself in a classroom full of supply chain analysts, social workers, journalists, film-makers, architects, engineers and more.”
Thanks to courses in the SUMA curriculum, Saraf further built her skill set to include stakeholder management, cost-benefit analysis, and energy efficiency. “Corporate Sustainability Reporting and Strategy was one of the most relevant and useful courses at Columbia University,” she says. “Not only did I learn about GRI reporting index, but also how to successfully navigate the constantly changing landscape of corporate sustainability and gain an understanding about stakeholder management and collaboration. It prepared me to succeed in my current role as a sustainability specialist that influences decision makers to see the unique value proposition of sustainable business.”
During her time at Columbia, Saraf received the Earth Institute Fellowship and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) fellowship. Through the EDF fellowship, she worked at a leading beauty retailer and did a large scale energy management project. It solidified her interest in corporate sustainability, and she was also able to apply course learnings from energy efficiency and GHG emissions in out-of-classroom projects.
Currently, she is working in the world’s largest chemical company where she helps internal and external stakeholders to identify and leverage sustainability through a variety of efforts such as new business development, marketing, and corporate strategy implementation. “SUMA program established my credibility as a professional and gave me the skillset to work in a fast, competitive environment where sustainability is used to solve problems. I am now able to drive change through the lens of sustainability.”
Saraf shared some advice for current and prospective students that want to build a career in corporate sustainability: “If you find yourself not sure about what interests you the most, SUMA may be the right place to discover your niche while building your personal network. As a student here, I was able to explore these different niches within sustainability, until I found exactly what I was looking for.”
The M.S. in Sustainability Management, co-sponsored by the Earth Institute and Columbia’s School of Professional Studies, trains students to tackle complex and pressing environmental and managerial challenges. Visit the website to learn more.