On Earth Day 2021, Meet The B-School Sustainability Graduates

Names: Ricky Ashenfelter and Emily Malina

Hometown: Philadelphia, PA and New York, NY

Fun Fact About Yourselves: Prior to business school — and for almost three years — we worked for the same company, in the same building, and only three floors apart — but never met until we crossed paths at an MIT Sloan happy hour for admitted students in Washington, D.C. 

Business School Degree Program: MIT Sloan MBA 2015, focus on Sustainability, Entrepreneurship & Innovation

1. What do you do, and how do you impact sustainability through your work?

We are the cofounders of Spoiler Alert, a mission-driven technology company focused on empowering major food & beverage brands to cut waste from their supply chains. We couldn’t be more excited to be helping industry leaders ranging from Kraft Heinz to Danone reduce food waste while boosting revenue and cutting costs. We do this by helping sales teams digitize their liquidation processes for short-dated and excess inventory, and we feed this data back to supply chain managers and demand planning teams to better inform them which of their products aren’t selling effectively so that they can do a better job managing this volume in the future.

2. What does World Earth Day mean to you?

Earth Day is such an important reminder for us and our team that we are a part of something much bigger than ourselves – that the actions we take as individuals and as a business directly impact the trajectory of our planet’s longevity.  When we were both much younger, Emily did conservation work for the National Park Service and Ricky started a nonprofit focused on recycling, so it’s also a reminder for us both of the important role the younger generation is playing in our collective futures!

3. What is your top tip for living a more sustainable life?

Be cognizant of the foods you buy and at what volumes. Consider going flexitarian with a plant-rich diet and cutting out a meat dish from time to time. Start a competition with yourself, your partner, your classmates to use everything you buy from the grocery store and get creative in not throwing anything out. Start reading up on where your food is coming from and appreciating how much carbon, energy, and water went into getting it to you, and how much it was all for nothing if you don’t eat it. These little behaviors can go a long way in addressing the food waste situation specifically and climate crisis more broadly.

4. How has your business school experience helped your career in in this area?

MIT Sloan was instrumental for us in founding Spoiler Alert. It solidified our interest in entrepreneurship, armed us with the confidence to lead, and confirmed our desire to weave impact into our company’s very DNA. We applied just about every action learning course we could to our startup – including Product Development & Marketing, Pricing, and Technology Sales.

5. What is the biggest/most important lesson you have learned during your studies?

When it comes to entrepreneurship: don’t let a fully buttoned-up academic business plan stand in the way of experimenting and executing swiftly. As MBAs (and former consultants, to make matters worse!), it’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to pressure-test a hypothesis from every angle and get everything just right before releasing it to the world (or to a customer). We had to learn how to get comfortable with a minimalist first draft – augmented with continuous feedback and rapid iteration.

6. Where do you see yourself in five years? 

Hopefully still building an enduring company! We’re a 20-person company at the moment and backed by some great institutional and impact investors, and we have a big vision to power the waste-free economy. There’s so much more work to be done to arm CPG leaders with the tools and intelligence to cut waste from their operations and we’re hopeful we’re building a great platform to amplify and accelerate this work.

7. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the planet?

Longevity. While we’re as excited as the next person to land people on Mars, we’re hopeful we’ve got many, many good years ahead for Earth! Our hope is that the business and policy leaders of today prioritize action over rhetoric, and that a deep sense of purpose and passion for the environment is instilled in all future generations to come.

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