State of the Planet

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MS Student Applies Sustainability Management Skills to CDP

M.S. in Sustainability Management student Andrea Tenorio
M.S. in Sustainability Management student Andrea Tenorio

M.S. in Sustainability Management (MSSM) student Andrea Tenorio joined the program because she was interested in a career that aligned with her values of social responsibility, recognized her affinity for efficiency and conservation, and was technically challenging.  Currently, Andrea works at CDP (formerly Carbon Disclosure Project), where she manages a program that provides companies with access to environmental information so that they can build internal expertise with regard to managing climate change issues. Andrea credits her varied background, personal interest in sustainability, and practical skills acquired in the classroom with being able to launch a meaningful career in sustainability management.

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

I work at CDP, which requests and aggregates environmental information from businesses and cities. Specifically, I manage a program that provides responding companies with access to this data and other tools that support them in building internal expertise with regard to managing climate change issues. This includes integrating climate change into their business strategies, identifying and managing risks and opportunities related to climate change, measuring and verifying emissions, and setting and attaining emission reduction targets.

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

I wanted to become an expert in environmental sustainability, and be able to engage in the industry in a multitude of ways. The wide breadth of the MSSM program allowed me to understand sustainability from many perspectives, including scientific, economic, political and financial.

3. What inspired you to work in sustainability?

Prior to working in sustainability, I had ten years of diverse work experience ranging from improving the operational efficiency of large businesses to teaching middle school math. Through these experiences, I learned that it was critical for me to work in a role that aligned with my values of social responsibility, recognized my affinity for efficiency and conservation, and was technically challenging. Working in sustainability allows me to realize these goals while developing an expertise in a specific industry, without limiting me to one specific job.

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

Some of the corporations I work with are not inherently sustainable. Although I provide them with data to identify best practices with regard to managing climate change issues, some only utilize this information within the boundaries of their existing strategy. It is important that corporations integrate climate change into their overall business strategy if significant progress is to be made in reducing global emissions. Crossing that barrier is a challenge.

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

I have been able to significantly expand the program that I manage. This means that the use of CDP data by corporations is more widespread than it was before I started my role. Since this information is utilized to build internal expertise with regard to managing climate change issues, expanding its use can help corporations become more sustainable and contribute to the reduction of global emissions.

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

Through the MSSM program, I learned how utilizing CDP data can strengthen many aspects of a corporation, including its profitability. For example, it is essential for businesses to identify and assess climate change-related risks that can impact their operations, such as an increase in frequency and intensity of severe weather events. Since CDP collects this information from companies, we can then provide corporations with a list of all of the risks reported by their peers. Reviewing this information can help a business ensure that they have captured all of the climate-change related risks that pertain to their company, as well.

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

My favorite class in the MSSM program has been Energy, Markets and Innovation, taught by Travis Bradford. Professor Bradford is engaging, and forces his students to understand the fundamentals of energy (such as the difference between energy and power, and between a kilowatt and a kilowatt-hour), in addition to conducting higher-level analyses, like assessing the environmental and financial impact of different energy generation scenarios.

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

The network I acquired through the MSSM program will enable me to continue to deepen my understanding of the multitude of ways in which I can contribute to sustaining our planet.

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

Network, network, network. Explore all areas that are of interest to you, via classes, engagement with your peers and professors, panel discussions, and other learning opportunities. Once you have identified ways in which you can and would like to contribute, continue to network, communicate your goals and skills to others, and ask for advice and additional connections.

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

The flexibility of the MSSM program was extremely important as it enabled me to enroll full-time initially when I was not working in sustainability, and then part-time when I wanted to invest time in internships and networking. I interviewed for full-time positions and was offered my current job when I still had three classes remaining. The flexibility of the program then enabled me to then start working full-time, and only take one class a semester in the evenings to finish my degree.

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 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. Visit our website to learn more.           

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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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