My job involves empowering farmers and helping them see cocoa as a sustainable choice.

After six years at Oxfam, Shayna Harris used her MIT Sloan degree to transition to a corporate sustainability role in the private sector for Mars Global Chocolate. As the Cocoa Sustainability Manager, Shayna helps farmers increase their yields and along with that, their incomes.

Even though I work for a big company, the sustainability effort is pioneering new practices and I have to be entrepreneurial.

As the Cocoa Sustainability Manager for Mars Global Chocolate, Shayna Harris helps cocoa farmers—many of whom are poor and live in remote parts of West Africa and Southeast Asia—increase their yields and along with that, their incomes.

“The chocolate industry continues to grow but today’s farmers do not have access to the tools they need to boost productivity,” she says. “My job involves working with our field teams and farmers to see that cocoa can be a sustainable choice for their livelihood.”

The company’s Sustainable Cocoa Initiative empowers local entrepreneurs to help farmers access planting materials, fertilizers, and training. Shayna and her team say this kind of support can help farmers triple their yields. “Even though I work for a big company, the sustainability effort is pioneering new practices and I have to be entrepreneurial.”

Shayna began her career in the non-profit world. After college, she worked at Oxfam on a program related to the coffee trade. “It was an exciting time: high-end coffee companies, like Starbucks, were getting involved in ethical issues and customers were asking questions about where their coffee comes from,” she recalls. “We engaged with the both the public and private sector.”

After six years at Oxfam and one year as a Fulbright Scholar in Brazil, she applied to MIT Sloan.

Her most memorable class was the Sustainability Capstone, which taught her “tools and techniques for sustainability-related scenario planning in a rapidly changing world,” she says. “With sustainability, you’re not talking about what’s going to happen in the next quarter or next year; you’re talking about 20 or even 30 years down the road. How do you lead amidst that uncertainty? What might the future look like? What does that mean for your actions today?”

Shayna says that MIT Sloan helped her make the transition from the non-profit sector to private industry. And the Sustainability Initiative broadened her “thinking about and exposure to” the field. What stood out for her most, however, were the people. “It was such a rich learning environment—my professors were fantastic and I learned so much from my classmates,” she says.