Someone who knows just what it’s like to have a huge workload with countless individuals relying on them is Alliance Manchester Business School alumna, Wendy Rayner.
Having spent the last 25 years living in Scotland, Rayner plays a critical role for NHS Scotland – the country’s publicly-funded healthcare system – as its National Sustainability Manager. The organisation’s technical lead for resource use and sustainable procurement, Rayner says that the role gives her the opportunity to “influence the way the NHS in Scotland buys products and services and then manages them at the end of their life.”
Reflecting on her time at Alliance Manchester, on the school’s Global MBA programme, Rayner, rather surprisingly, notes that her studies didn’t render her a business expert.
“The MBA didn’t make me an expert in business, it provided me with the understanding and ability to have knowledgeable conversations with experts in strategy, finance, investment, marketing etc. It gave me the tools to help businesses reflect and develop their business models to meet sustainability goals.”
She does, however, believe that her time on the GMBA at Alliance Manchester provided her with “the tools and understanding to deal with all aspects of sustainability.”
So, with those tools and that understanding in mind, what would Rayner say is the best way to live a more sustainable life? “Do something, however small or insignificant you think it might be, it will make a difference… change your diet, reduce food waste, buy pre-loved items, walk or cycle rather than drive, turn the heating down, switch the light off…”
LOOKING TO GIVE BACK
For Jeff Denby, a graduate of Berkley Haas’ full-time MBA, the answer to living a sustainable life is simple: “Buy nothing new! There are so many great options for buying refurbished or renewed or resale products in almost all consumer categories. Quick searches on google will turn up more options than ever before.”
Co-Founder of The Renewal Workshop – a leading provider of circular solutions for apparel and home textile brands, working with big name brands like The North Face and Tommy Hilfiger – it’s no surprise that Denby wants to encourage others to by previously-owned items.
For Denby, his time at Berkeley Haas has had a significant impact on his career. “My experience at Haas gave me the skills to understand finance, pricing, and venture deals…more than anything though, the Haas network has been the most invaluable take-away. My classmates are lifelong sources of support – they are my connectors, investors, customers, mentors, and advisors.”
“I truly believe that I would not be where I am today if it were not for Haas by my side.”
And, for the co-CEO of The Renewable Workshop, his time at business school taught him one very important lesson: “Take the course on the subject that you are not good at! I hated accounting and I’m still terrible at it but those courses from my MBA allowed me to have intelligent conversations about the topic.”
Having learned so much during his time at Haas, as well as his during his journey as a start-up founder, Denby now know what he wants to do in the future – give something back.
“I’d like to be in a role focused on coaching founders through the mental and emotional challenges of growing their businesses.”
IMPORTANT TO WORK ‘NOT ONLY FROM THE OUTSIDE BUT FROM WITHIN’
Rayner isn’t alone in her view that it’s the small things that can and will make the difference. Erica Kostense, an alumna of Nyenrode Business University in the Netherlands, takes a similar stance. “I believe we are all capable of making a huge impact on sustainability through small choices we make every day and if we all do something this can totally add up,” Kostense says.
Having previously worked at Big Four firm, Deloitte, managing their sustainability projects, Kostense has taken her corporate experience and applied it to her role as a Strategic Account Manager at the Rainforest Alliance. Working with cocoa and coffee traders, she provides expert guidance around meeting sustainability goals.
Kostense traces her interest in climate action all the way back to when she was just a child, opting to become a vegetarian at the age of 12. She notes that you would often find her “reading all I could about meat consumption and the impact it had on our planet.” It was this environmental consciousness that led her to dedicate her career to sustainability, and now she finds that her own daughter is developing that same awareness of climate change having also decided to become a vegetarian.
Kostense believes that business has a significant role to play in climate action as a force for change. It was this belief that inspired her in part to study at Nyenrode.
“Knowing how companies operate, how businesses work is key in understanding how we can change things,” she says. “Not only from the outside but from within.”
‘I HOPE THE WORDS BECOME ACTION’
Working for NextEra Energy Resources, “the world’s largest operator of wind and solar projects and a leader in renewable energy”, Angeline Gross lives and breathes sustainability. An alumna of the University of Florida’s Hough Graduate School of Business Online MBA Program, Gross works as a Reliability Engineer, working to ensure that NextEra’s wind turbines run both smoothly and efficiently… even if that means actively climbing the turbines at times!
For Angeline, the best way that regular people can contribute to living a more sustainable life is to support the organizations out there working tirelessly to save the planet.
“This answer might surprise a lot of people, but one of the best things you can do to help the planet is donate to trustworthy climate charities,” she says. Beyond that, however, Gross is hopeful that if we can take climate change as seriously as we have taken the pandemic, there may still be a chance for Earth yet.
Looking back at him at her time at UFL, Angeline believes her greatest lesson came from the experience itself, as opposed to any one class or course. She says that her time at business school taught her “how to work together within a diverse team to effectively solve problems.”
“The skills involved – such as listening, negotiating, and building trust, just to name a few – are what sets apart a great team from a good team, and by extension, a great company from a good company.”
With those skills under her belt, and with the future of the renewable energy sector “looking bright” — pun intended — Gross is optimistic about what’s in store for her, and for the planet.
‘I HOPE THE WORDS BECOME ACTION’
Working in procurement at Anheuser-Busch InBev, the multinational brewing company often referred to as AB InBev, University of Florida’s Warrington College of Business MBA Jacob Holloway takes “sustainability into account in everything we do.” That’s because, for Holloway, while sustainability isn’t traditionally a part of business, at his company it really is.
Holloway first joined AB InBev as an intern while studying on the Warrington GMBA. Alongside being instrumental in leading him to his current role, Holloway’s time at UF has been influential on his career in sustainability for another reason. “The University of Florida is lovingly known by our football fans as ‘The Swamp,’ but it also happens to be surrounded by actual swamps, springs, and other important Florida ecosystems,” he says.
“UF takes a very active role in researching and addressing the ecological concerns of the state. Naturally, a lot of those concerns are intertwined with business interests, and so having exposure to such topics provided a great context for future sustainability work.”
Equipped with the skills he picked up during his time at UF Warrington, Holloway is hopeful about the future – for him and the planet.
“I hope that words become action. Sustainability is very trendy right now, and I hope that we can translate that buzz into actionable plans which we follow through on,” he says.