State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

MS Student Earns Recognition as Corporate Social Responsibility Leader

M.S. in Sustainability Management Student Pamela Alabaster
M.S. in Sustainability Management Student Pamela Alabaster

Current M.S. in Sustainability Management (MSSM) student Pamela Alabaster joined the program after a corporate sustainability appointment at L’Oréal USA with the express purpose of honing her skills in the corporate social responsibility field. Through meaningful lectures and applicable project-based coursework, Pamela has acquired the practical knowledge and understanding in the field and has been recognized by the industry for her innovative work.

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

I am senior vice president for corporate communications, sustainable development and public affairs for L’Oréal USA. In this role I have the responsibility to advance the subsidiary’s practices, systems, know-how and policies in the area of sustainability. Working with the organization’s business units and key functions our focus is on sustainable production and innovation, employee education and mobilization, stakeholder engagement and reputation building for the enterprise and our brands. I also lead the company’s government affairs strategy, develop policy positions, build high quality relationships in state and federal government to shape policy, and advocate creating a more favorable business environment. Lastly in the area of communications, my focus is on issues, crisis and reputation management.

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

I applied for the Columbia MSSM program because I had just been appointed by our CEO to build the CSR/sustainability function for L’Oréal USA and felt that I needed to advance my knowledge, insights, skills and competency in this rapidly emerging discipline as well as enhance my professional credibility with internal and external stakeholders. Columbia is local, offered evening classes and has a rich curricula and top professors who are leaders in their field.

3. What inspired you to work in sustainability? 

The recognition that we need to manage our  business activities in the context of declining natural resources  and ecosystem services and increasing demand for resources driven by population growth. Business as usual won’t work in the context of these macro forces and business leaders need to drive transformational change. I want to be part of that change movement.

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

Integrating sustainability into everything we do, especially product design and development and engaging leadership.

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

We have fostered a new openness toward external collaboration and are now working in partnership with NGOs, suppliers and other key stakeholders to advance our know-how and progress on key issues. I was also pleased to be recognized by Triple Pundit among the top 35 female CSR leaders in January of this year and to be included among other pioneers in driving sustainability in their organizations.

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

The Capstone Project, for which we advised the Natural Resources Defense Council on the business case for sustainability reporting, the best sustainability reporting methodologies and the actual development of a Global Reporting Initiative level C report has been directly applicable to my work.

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

Environmental Policy & Law with Carol Casazza Herman enriched my exposure to the regulatory and policy frameworks under which we need to manage our business activities and their environmental impacts. It was also fantastic to be taught by a professor that had not only worked at the Environmental Protection Agency but who had also worked in private enterprise and had understanding of how environmental policy can affect business. This class had cross over in both my CSR and public affairs roles at L’Oréal.

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

I hope to continue to drive sustainability in the L’Oréal organization and build pioneering and leadership practices.

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

Target a company in an industry sector that you are interested in and be sure you can articulate the business case for sustainability and how you would create value.

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

An advanced degree from a leading academic institution provides knowledge and legitimacy that is recognized and valued by employers.

The M.S. 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 M.S. in 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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