MIT Sloan students spearhead their own sustainability oriented internship opportunities

The Sloan Sustainability Initiative aims to aid students in their search for internships—subsidizing both the students themselves and their host organizations through the Sloan Social Impact Fund (SSIF) and the Sustainability Initiative Internship Program (SIIP). However, many students take an alternative route, forging their own “self-sourced” sustainability employment opportunities through their own networks with support from the Initiative. Here are the stories of four such students and their advice for peers considering this same path.

 

Jessica Newman interned at the Global Procurement Office at Anheuser Busch InBev as part of the SmartBarley Team. This group assists barley growers by “benchmarking” their operations against others around the world, helping them manage a portfolio of agricultural sustainability projects in various regions. Last summer, Jessica designed and evaluated nitrogen and water efficiency projects for AB InBev contract growers in the US and Mexico.

“Jess brought a valuable perspective to our team with her previous work in development and her passion for agriculture,” says Katie Hoard, Global Manger of Agricultural Development. “She quickly took ownership of her projects, identified key opportunities and was able to drive results in the short time she was here. The teams Jess worked with in the U.S. and Mexico keep asking me when she is coming back.”

Jessica secured her internship after entering a SmartBarley case competition at MIT, which she’d learned about via Sustainability Initiative’s newsletter. This allowed her and her partner to bypass the usual AB InBev recruiting channels.

Case competitions are a great way to demonstrate your interest and competence to companies,” she says. “Even if you don’t win, you have a good chance of leapfrogging into a later stage of the recruiting process.

 

Samantha Fahrbach interned at AB InBev as well, but collaborated with the Better World team within the Corporate Affairs department—crafting the company’s corporate social responsibility strategy. The focus of Samantha’s internship was two-fold: Frist, she developed a forecasting model to expand the company’s share of low- and no-alcohol beer products, and then devised strategies to increase the use of recycled packaging materials. She says developing an effective sustainability strategy was something she had discussed in the classroom at MIT Sloan as part of the Sustainability Certificate, but her internship reinforced what she’d learned in a real-world scenario.

“Samantha was a great addition to the team,” says Ezgi Barcenas, Global Director for Procurement Sustainability[REM1] . “She worked efficiently across functions to identify and deliver key sustainability solutions, tirelessly bringing fresh perspectives and insights.”

Samantha came in contact with the Better World team after expressing her interest in AB InBev’s sustainability work during the fall on-campus recruitment session. She advises fellow students to assert their interests from the get-go.

I was vocal with recruiters about what I was interested in, which enabled me to find the opportunity I did at AB InBev,” Samantha recalls. “Students should also be prepared to look both on- and off-campus, and start doing research and making connections with off-campus companies and organizations early.

 

Cindy Noe spent 10 weeks as a member of The Coca-Cola Company Global Sustainability Team, helping to decrease their environmental impact and make a difference in the communities where Coca-Cola is produced. Cindy split her time between focusing on the company’s general sustainability and water stewardship strategies, respectively. She also had the opportunity to present her research regarding the integration of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and freshwater conservation projects at Stockholm Water Week.

Cindy was intent on working with The Coca-Cola Company from the beginning because of their leadership in water stewardship specifically. She attended the 2015 Net Impact Conference in Seattle, introduced herself to a recruiter from the Global Sustainability Team, and applied to the internship via Net Impact.  

Cindy transcended the typical stereotype of an intern,” Koch says.” She hit the ground running, added tremendous value and quickly established herself as a peer.  Her synthesis and primary research on the integration of WASH and freshwater conservation contributed the global state of practice and we are now using her work to advance such integrated projects, starting in Central America.

Cindy’s advice for those interested in working in sustainability is to identify specific issues, industries, or brands they care about as soon as possible, and target those relentlessly. This process helps narrow the list of relevant companies and facilitates more focused conversations during interviews. Finally, Cindy urges fellow students to clearly communicate what they could contribute to a company. “Your interest in sustainability is important, but your skills and demonstrated ability are what will get you the internship,” she says. 

 

Elad Shapira interned at Biogen, a biotech company discovering, developing, and delivering innovative therapies worldwide for people living with serious neurological and neurodegenerative diseases. Elad was a member of Biogen’s Sustainability Team, helping to maintain their citizenship and sustainability commitment and top sustainability ranking by overseeing the company’s energy use, recycling practices, green building standards, and more.

Specifically, Elad contributed to Biogen’s sustainability strategy, defining what it meant to be a leader in sustainable practices in the biotech industry and outlining potential environmental goals to further build on Biogen’s leadership. He worked closely with external consultants and advisors, including Sustainability Initiative at MIT Sloan Director, Jason Jay. Elad was also asked to investigate climate (“green”) bonds and delineate the related guidelines and standards, as well as determine which company projects could be financed or re-financed through these bonds. He researched best practices by speaking with sustainability leaders at big companies, consultants, and Climate Bonds Initiative.

We were thrilled to have Elad serve as an extension of our team,” says Johanna C. Jobin, Biogen’s Director of Global Sustainability. “With Elad’s passion and technical expertise, we were able to identify opportunities to further strengthen our strategy towards making a positive impact for our customers, shareholders, employees, and communities.

Elad learned about the opportunity through the MIT Sloan Career Development Office (CDO) and the Sustainability Initiative’s weekly newsletter, ultimately applying via the CDO's hiring portal. To students just entering the realm of sustainability, Elad recommends using the MIT Sloan alumni network and the summer internship to test the waters of full-time employment.

 “You can learn about the companies you’re interested in through the Sloanies who have worked there before you,” he adds. “There is a big group of them involved in sustainability, so they’re a great resource.”