The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
7 Reasons to Consider a Sustainability Management Degree
Current Master of Science in Sustainability Management (MSSM) student Divya Bendre had just completed postgraduate work in Policy Studies and was working in management consulting in Singapore when she stumbled upon an article by Steve Cohen, executive director of The Earth Institute at Columbia University, entitled “Educating Sustainability Professionals" that changed the trajectory of her career path. Divya joined the program because she felt the flexible curriculum would help her to combine her interest in sustainability with her academic and professional experiences. After the program, Divya hopes to continue her work in ESG measurement, disclosure and investment space.
1. What drew you to the Master of Science in Sustainability Management (MSSM)?
Volunteer research-work for a local environmental non-profit brought me to Prof. Cohen's article entitled “Educating Sustainability Professionals" and something just clicked for me—the MSSM program was exactly what I needed to bring together my academic background in engineering and policy, professional experience in the corporate world, and my interests in sustainability. The funny thing is that I was not actually looking for a master's program when I first learned about the MSSM program. At the time, I had just completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Policy Studies and was working full-time in management consulting in Singapore.
2. What do you think is the most important sustainability challenge?
I think the biggest challenge is that sustainability risks and opportunities play out over generations, while planning and accountability processes at governments and corporations usually have short-term horizons—often less than 5 years. It is really important for sustainability professionals to acknowledge this mismatch and paint a realistic picture of the short-, medium- and long-term implications when they are building a case for change. Obviously, this is easier said than done because sustainability issues are so complex and inter-connected.
3. What do you intend to do professionally once you achieve your degree?
I'd like to continue working in the ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) measurement, disclosure, and investment space. I see this career path as a natural progression of my past work experience. Before coming to Columbia University, I helped companies quantify and strategize about critical-yet-hard-to-measure issues such as compliance culture, talent retention, and manager quality. It might be a cliché to say 'what gets measured, gets managed,' but I really believe that better measurement and disclosure is necessary for unlocking sustainability innovation in the corporate and public sector.
4. What is your favorite class in the MSSM program so far and why?
My favorite course was Sustainable Finance with Professor Bruce Kahn. Much of the coursework is about framing and quantifying ESG issues in terms of financial risk and returns. Most students in the class had no background in finance, but by the end of the semester we could all build valuation models that integrated companies' sustainability performance alongside traditional financial metrics.
Most of my friends (and my husband and mother) work in the financial services industry, but I'd never felt drawn to it until I took this course. The course showed me how critical the capital markets are for a transition to a sustainable economy and introduced me to some of the sustainability-focused innovation in this space. Ultimately, the course helped me connect the dots between the five curriculum areas in the MSSM program and understand where I my skills and interest fit in the sustainability arena.
5. What skills and tools have you acquired through the program so far?
MSSM professional development seminars on Microsoft Excel and Bloomberg ESG have helped me deepen by analytical toolkit. MSSM workshops have also helped me gain certifications in LEED and GRI Reporting. In my final semester, I am looking forward to adding on environmental data analysis skills in R programming and ArcGIS.
One of the best things about the MSSM program is that it gives students the flexibility to design a multi-disciplinary learning experience that draws on courses, seminars, and student groups across Columbia University. Taking courses in different schools has helped me see sustainability from the lens of different actors. For example, taking Environmental Issues in Business Transactions at Columbia Law School made me aware of the legal risks and liabilities posed by certain types of environmental disclosures in contracts and financial reports.
6. How have you applied what you've learned in the program so far?
I apply what I've learned everyday; the program has made me a more responsible consumer, investor, and citizen. I have also had two internships where I have directly applied my new sustainability analysis skills. Over the summer, I interned at Ceres—a leading sustainability non-profit organization. At Ceres, I applied and expanded my skills in corporate sustainability, stakeholder engagement, and ESG disclosure.
Since October 2014, I have been an intern at the United Nations-supported Principles for Responsible Investment Initiative (PRI). At PRI, I support the Sustainable Stock Exchanges Initiative and UN Global Compact teams on ESG disclosure projects. Our projects cover sustainability reporting as well as ESG communication through financial reports and investor calls. Everything that I have learned from MSSM's Sustainability Management, Sustainable Finance and Sustainability Communications Strategy and Reporting courses are directly relevant for my work at PRI.
7. Beyond the classroom, what extracurricular sustainability related activities have you engaged in with your fellow Sustainability Management students?
Going to conferences and meetings with my classmates has broadened my view of the professional opportunities in the sustainability space. MSSM alumni and the SUMASA (Sustainability Management Student Association) board do a great job of sharing relevant professional networking opportunities throughout the year.
In addition to external events around New York, I participate in workshops and networking events organized by student groups such as the SIPA Energy Association and Columbia Impact Investing Initiative (CI3). Through CI3, I have worked with students from MSSM and SIPA on pro bono consulting projects for social enterprises. My CI3 team designed metrics to help a Mexican rural solar energy company assess the impact of their financial education and community development programs. I also consulted for a wine start-up that helps small family-owned wineries in developing countries get access to American markets.
Students in the MPA in Environmental Science and Policy program enroll in a year-long, 54-credit program offered at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs, in partnership with the Earth Institute.
Since it began in 2002, the MPA in Environmental Science and Policy program has given students the hands-on experience, and the analytical and decision-making tools to implement effective environmental and sustainable management policies. The program's 682 graduates have advanced to jobs in domestic and international environmental policy, working in government, private and non-profit sectors. Their work involves issues of sustainability, resource use and global change, in fields focused on air, water, climate, energy efficiency, food, agriculture, transportation and waste management. They work as consultants, advisers, project managers, program directors, policy analysts, teachers, researchers and environmental scientists and engineers.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Jennifer Molidor, PhD
Climate change, habitat loss and pollution are overwhelming our planet. Thankfully, these enormous threats are being met by a bold new wave of environmental activism.
Trump Makes Strange Claim About Water Efficient Toilets: 'People Are Flushing Toilets 10 Times, 15 Times'
President Donald Trump mocked water-efficiency standards in new constructions last week. Trump said, "People are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times, as opposed to once. They end up using more water. So, EPA is looking at that very strongly, at my suggestion." Trump asked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for a federal review of those standards since, he claimed with no evidence, that they are making bathrooms unusable and wasting water, as NBC News reported.
By Carey Gillam
Former Monsanto Chairman and CEO Hugh Grant will have to testify in person at a St. Louis-area trial set for January in litigation brought by a cancer-stricken woman who claims her disease was caused by exposure to the company's Roundup herbicide and that Monsanto covered up the risks instead of warning consumers.
A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.
"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."
The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.
My god, White Island volcano in New Zealand erupted today for first time since 2001. My family and I had gotten off it 20 minutes before, were waiting at our boat about to leave when we saw it. Boat ride home tending to people our boat rescued was indescribable. #whiteisland pic.twitter.com/QJwWi12Tvt— Michael Schade (@sch) December 9, 2019
Michael Schade / Twitter
At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.
The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.
Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.
"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."
Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.
Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.
"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.
"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."
The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.
Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.
- New Evidence Suggests Ancient Egypt Was Brought Down by ... ›
- Climate Change Could Set Off Volcanoes - EcoWatch ›
- U.S. Has 18 'Very High Threat' Volcanoes - EcoWatch ›
- Scientists Discover 91 Volcanoes Hidden Under Antarctic Ice Sheet ... ›