State of the Planet

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Unique Career Path: Utah Ski Slopes to NYC Sustainability Consulting and Columbia

MS in Sustainability Management student Josh Rosenfield hopes to conserve natural resources while helping companies to generate healthy profits.

MS in Sustainability Management (MSSM) student, Josh Rosenfield, has been working in sustainable business for the past ten years. After spending three years managing Deloitte’s internal sustainability program, he transitioned into a role that focuses on client services, as a manager with Deloitte’s Global Sustainability and Climate Change Services team. The team sets the strategy for Deloitte’s network of more than 750 sustainability services practitioners around the world and manages various programs in support of their work. Josh entered the MSSM program in fall 2010 as a part-time student and is expected to graduate in May 2013.

1. What is your current job and what are the responsibilities associated with your position?

Since March 2011, I have been a manager with Deloitte’s Global Sustainability and Climate Change Services team, responsible for building our portfolio of sustainability service offerings, conducting marketing and business development activities, performing research and writing thoughtware, and promoting integration of sustainability considerations into service lines and industry programs that are less focused on sustainability. Prior to this role, I worked on Deloitte’s internal sustainability program for three years.

2. What drew you to the Master of Science in Sustainability Management program?

I chose the MSSM program because it would let me carry on my career while taking classes in the major areas of study that sustainability practitioners need to be acquainted with. The program’s link with the Earth Institute would give me exposure to some of the finest research and thinking across numerous disciplines.

3. What inspired you to work in sustainability?

In early 2000, I moved to Salt Lake City to spend the winter as a “ski bum” and befriended an urban planner (and fellow skier) whose concerns about the wilderness stirred me. He recommended some books. One of them, Natural Capitalism, was a revelation. During my short stint in consulting before my move to Utah, nobody talked about businesses using natural resources efficiently. Eager to get involved, I took a job at Social Venture Network, a club for social entrepreneurs. There I defined my career mission: helping companies to generate healthy profits by meeting society’s needs and conserving nature.

4. What has been your biggest challenge associated with sustainability in your current position?

One major challenge is teaching colleagues who aren’t sustainability specialists about how sustainability issues affect their clients and their areas of responsibility, and convincing them to make sustainability a regular consideration in their work. I think people are beginning to comprehend that sustainability isn’t strictly a matter of making marginal adjustments but ultimately one of rethinking and transforming how organizations operate so they can remain viable for the long term. That requires a significant change in mindsets.

5. What has been your biggest accomplishment associated with sustainability in your current position?

My most significant accomplishments have been instituting Deloitte’s system for measuring and reporting sustainability performance, which is fundamental for managing improvement, and leading the development of Deloitte’s first three global corporate responsibility reports.

6. What is an example of how you have applied something specific you have learned in the program thus far to your job?

Steve Cohen’s lectures in the core course, Sustainability Management, have helped me to refine the way that I articulate the sustainability imperative to colleagues whose views I am trying to influence.

7. What is your favorite class in the MSSM program so far and why?

My favorite class has been International Relations of the Environment at the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), which looks at international policy regimes for managing climate change, oceans, forests, biodiversity, and other aspects of the environment.

8. How do you intend to utilize your degree from the MSSM program in furthering your career?

I hope that my degree from the MSSM program will enable me to further my career by examining subjects that I have some business experience with, such as climate change or water scarcity, from an academic perspective as well as a business perspective. A good deal of academic study on sustainability topics has not really penetrated the business world, so I have picked up quite a few ideas and analytical approaches from the MSSM program that have been useful in my work.

9. What tips do you have for your fellow students who are looking for a job in sustainability?

Don’t get discouraged if you can’t land a job focusing on sustainability right away: even the biggest companies typically employ few full-time sustainability professionals. Look for positions that fit your skills at companies with established sustainability programs or, better yet, lines of sustainable products and services. Once you are set up there, get involved in the internal sustainability program or seek out the sustainability managers and work on advancing their efforts in the context of what you are doing.

10. What do you think is the most beneficial aspect of the MSSM program with regard to your career?

I think it’s critically important to study sustainability science in a more rigorous way than is possible just by reading grey literature about sustainability. For my own career, I believe that having a master’s degree will be quite useful because many leadership positions look for post-baccalaureate education.

The MS in Sustainability Management, co-sponsored by the Earth Institute and Columbia’s School of Continuing Education, trains students to tackle complex and pressing environmental and managerial challenges. The Sustainability Management program requires the successful completion of 36 credit points. Those credit points are divided among five comprehensive content areas: integrative sustainability management, economics and quantitative analysis, the physical dimensions of sustainability, the public policy environment of sustainability management, and general and financial management. Please visit our website to learn more about the program.

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Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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