State of the Planet

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MS Alum Banks on Sustainability Management Skills

M.S. in Sustainability Management alum Lizzette Butkiewicz (’12)

While a part-time student in the program, M.S. in Sustainability Management alum Lizzette Butkiewicz (’12), was working full-time at a boutique trade finance firm with the hope of merging her interest in sustainability with her background in finance. Now, as the Manager of Community Investments in the Corporate Sustainability team at HSBC, Lizzette is doing just that – liaising between the company’s philanthropic partnerships, specifically those in New York, and creating employee engagement opportunities with key partners.

1. What is your current job?

I am the Manager of Community Investments in the Corporate Sustainability team at HSBC.  I liaise between our philanthropic partnerships, specifically those in New York, and create employee engagement opportunities with these key partners. Our global sustainability strategy is to connect with key partners that support the development of the communities in which we do business, increase environmental education and awareness for our employees and community, and provide financial literacy to the community. My role is to apply that global strategy at a local level connecting with key local partners while educating employees of these efforts and increasing their participation and involvement in the community.

2. Do your current job responsibilities align with the professional goals that you originally had when you began the MSSM program?

I joined the MSSM program to merge my interest in sustainability and background in finance; I worked at a boutique trade finance fund while I completed the program part-time.  My transition into the sustainability team of a large financial institution aligns with my professional goals. I am able to see first hand the sustainability strategy of a global financial institution, how it is applied locally, and help the bank reach their goals. I plan to continue to apply my financial background and merge it with sustainability initiatives.

3. What skills has the MSSM program taught you that you think have proven useful to your current position?

As I have only worked in the private sector, the MSSM program (specifically Capstone) demonstrated the importance of private/public partnerships and “speaking” the language of both types of organizations.  I am currently putting theory to practice as I communicate with non-profit organizations on a daily basis helping them to achieve their goals while supporting our sustainability strategy; a win/win for both parties and for the communities which we impact. Another important skill, which was emphasized in the MSSM program, was learning to quantify and measure key data. Whether it is translating dollar value to people reached, “trees planted,” or dollars saved, being able to measure goals backed up by important measurable data helps the organization to set better objectives and truly have an impact.

4. What skills and tools do you hope to acquire through this job?

Working for a large global institution provides several opportunities. Through employee engagement opportunities, I have the ability to meet a wide range of employees – from top executives to branch tellers – and am able to speak about our sustainability goals. I hope to learn how to communicate and connect with all levels of the organization more effectively. At the same time, the reach of a global company has the potential to be immense and the positive impact it can have in the communities where it does business is tremendous. I hope to find ways to increase the bank’s positive impact, particularly in New York City.

5. How has collaborating with your fellow students in class projects benefitted you professionally and personally?

Thanks to the MSSM program, I have created a great network of likeminded professionals and good friends. Since the program recruits international individuals from diverse professional backgrounds, tackling a project was educational not only from a content perspective but also because of how each student approached the project and came up with a solution. I learned as much from my classmates as I did from the professors. Personally, I was able to share experiences such as traveling to Jordan to do research for our Capstone project.

Having students that were locals and showed us around their country was an incredible experience. At the same time, having the support of classmates that understood the challenges and responsibilities of working full time while attending school part-time made the difficult times that much easier.

I am happy to have a global network of professionals in an emerging field.

6. What kinds of sustainability initiatives do you hope to start in your new position?

As a recent hire, I am still learning about all the initiatives and the global strategies. For now, I am concentrating on how to better achieve these goals.

7. How do you intend to utilize your degree from the MSSM program to further your career?

I plan to continue to network with the diverse and extensive alumni community. It has been wonderful that so many of my friends from MSSM remained in New York City. However, it is equally exciting that many of our alumni live around the globe. I have been able to create a network of likeminded individuals in the sustainability sector while having easy access to professors, campus, conferences, and classes in the field – all things that I hope will continue to feed my knowledge and keep me relevant as I further my career in the sector.

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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