Driving change around energy, water, and waste management at Sodexo

Mayank Agarwal spent his summer internship at the World Wildlife Fund working on a partner project at Sodexo, the global food services and facilities manager. He focused on helping Sodexo develop emission benchmarking and performance tracking tools. 

I learned the importance of taking a holistic approach to sustainability. You need to be able to show a tangible financial opportunity.

As a child growing up in Allahabad—a large city in Northeastern India, Mayank Agarwal was accustomed to frequent power outages. The city’s electrical grid was woefully out of date and often got overloaded. Blackouts were a daily occurrence.

“I am from a very nice, middle class Indian city, but day to day, we couldn’t count on having access to basic resources,” he says. “It was just the reality.”

The experience inspired Mayank to pursue a career in renewable energy. After college, he and a friend founded a small consultancy focused on renewables. “We knew there was a lot of opportunity to do some good work,” he says. “It was good exposure and I learned about the technical, operational, and financial challenges of the renewable energy world.”

A few years later, Mayank began looking into MBA programs. “MIT Sloan was the only school I applied to because its culture and philosophy resonated with me,” he says. “I wanted a place where I could roll up my sleeves and do stuff.”

For Mayank, the Sustainability Internship Program, made possible by a generous gift from Anna Gabriella C. Antici Carroll  ’92 and Joseph D. Carroll ’91, provided the precise opportunity he had in mind. “I wanted to build my skill set, test my assumptions, and expand my network,” he says. “This was the reason I came to Sloan.” 

Mayank spent the summer at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) working on a partner project at Sodexo, the global food services and facilities manager. Mayank focused on helping Sodexo develop emission benchmarking and performance tracking tools for its 9,000+ locations across North America.

“It's was a learning curve,” he says. “For me, the biggest takeaway was the degree to which sustainability needs to be part of the business decision making process. You need to make sure you structure your story and your message so that it’s meaningful to different stakeholders.”

Using his energy background, Mayank also helped Sodexo calculate targets for cutting its carbon and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Thanks in part to his data, Sodexo recently released its carbon footprint and has pledged to complete a 34% absolute reduction in GHG emissions by 2020.

“That is a leading target for the services industry,” says Jeff Malcolm, director of private sector engagement at WWF, and Mayank’s former supervisor.

“As a nonprofit, our ambitions are often outsized by our budget. The fellowship subsidy was extremely valuable,” he adds. “Having a well-educated and experienced intern like Mayank allowed us to engage in this way.”

Today Mayank works at the Boston office of Deloitte Consulting with a focus on supply chain sustainability. He says he may go back to India one day and return to the renewable sector. In the meantime, though, he often thinks about his work at WWF and Sodexo.

“It’s where I learned the importance of taking a holistic approach to sustainability,” he says. “You need to be able to show a tangible financial opportunity.”