An unconventional route to sustainability

Elad Shapira did not come to a career in sustainability via the most traditional path, but his internship last summer contributing Biogen’s sustainability strategy affirmed he’s in the right place.

Elad Shapira did not take the conventional route to sustainability. He began by working with military dogs, and next joined an Israeli Ministry of Finance, working in the transportation division. There, he began to understand the impact of public transit on the environment. After securing a position at a commercial bank focused on financing energy projects, it became clear to Elad that he wanted to pursue a career that combined business practices and sustainability.

“I was very proud to be promoting these kinds of projects,” he recalled. “When I decided I wanted to get my MBA, MIT Sloan stood out because it had one of the strongest programs in sustainability.”

Last summer, Elad interned at Biogen—a biotech company discovering, developing, and delivering innovative therapies worldwide for people living with serious neurological and neurodegenerative diseases. As a member of the Sustainability Team, Elad helped oversee the company’s energy use, recycling practices, green building standards, and more. He contributed to Biogen’s overall sustainability strategy, assembling a core team of champions—including Director and Senior Lecturer Jason Jay—to plan and run sustainability strategy workshops.

Elad also determined which company projects could be financed or re-financed through climate (“green”) bonds. He researched best practices by speaking with sustainability managers at big companies, consultants, and Climate Bonds Initiatives.

 “As a member of a sustainability team, you need to work with a lot of different people,” he says. “This means you have to really understand your organization, and build strong relationships with fellow collaborators.”

“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 found his internship through the MIT Sloan Career Development Office (CDO) and the Sustainability Initiative’s weekly newsletter, and recommends using the summer as a trial run for full-time employment.

“If you’re an MBA student without an extensive background in sustainability, it’s a great time to learn if it’s something you’d eventually want to do for the long-term,” he says. “Chose a company that makes sustainability a high priority, and find a manager you can learn from.”

Over the last six months while back at MIT Sloan, Elad has been deeply immersed in a start-up with three classmates, called Get Rid. This startup grew out of several classes at MIT, including one course called Sustainability-Oriented Innovation and Entrepreneurship with Professor Jay. As the name suggests, Get Rid aim to help people “get rid of stuff.” Customers can provide used clothes, books, toys, and the like, to Get Rid—who will pick them up, sort them, and sell them to local non-profits or online. The company then splits the profit 50/50 with their customers.

Elad maintains that MIT Sloan provided invaluable resources that helped launch his start-up. “The Sustainability Certificate program is full of great role models,” he says. “I’ve learned not only how to promote sustainability, but also how to make a career in doing so—there are many ways to not only be part of a sustainability team, but also to be in operations and finance.”