Cornell University Johnson at Cornell University

Business Roundtable

Promoting sustainability within corporations

Actively participating in cross-functional teams is one of the most effective means to inject sustainable approaches into a company's thinking and practices, agreed panelists at a career event, "The Relevance of an MBA in the Millennial Age," designed to build awareness of job opportunities in the areas of sustainability, social responsibility, and disruptive technologies, which was held at Sage Hall February 1 and 2. The event was co-sponsored by Net Impact and the Center for Sustainable Global Enterprise (CSGE), and included panel discussions, a career fair, job interviews, and reception.

The ability to demonstrate some experience in dealing with issues of sustainability constitutes just one of the key competencies his company looks for in MBA job candidates noted Don Reed, a partner at Ecos Corp. They also look for technological expertise in new product areas and the ability to translate across job lines to scientists within the company.

"Cross-functional fluency is very important in a job," said Seth Dunn of GE Energy's Renewable Energy Leadership Program. "It can be bewildering, but you have to understand how to speak the language of all those different people."

Roger Vardan of Strata-Gems and CSGE Executive-in-Residence
Roger Vardan of Strata-Gems and CSGE Executive-in-Residence
"An idea isn't enough," said Roger Vardan, managing director of Strata-Gems and Executive-in-Residence at CSGE. "Your VP doesn't have time to create a project for you. You have to create it."

William McNeill of Dow Chemical agreed. "We always look for people who can lead, react to change, and adapt to change." Initiating, planning, managing, and completing clearly defined, finite projects that cross organizational boundaries are key to pushing through new ideas and approaches.

Moreover, sustainability alone isn't enough to make an idea fly. "For things to truly succeed, they have to be cheaper and better – and, by the way, environmentally sustainable, too," noted Charles Hamilton, MBA '04, CEO of Novomer, LLC. Dunn agreed: "Our customers focus on the kilowatt-per-hour cost. We have to be competitive."

John Fay, MBA '04, Emerging Markets Group senior development specialist, spoke on building a sustainable world through government, NGO, and private-sector opportunities.