State of the Planet

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MS Student Transitions to Career in Sustainable Investing

M.S. in Sustainability Management student Carolyn Roose
M.S. in Sustainability Management student Carolyn Roose

Prior to joining the M.S. in Sustainability Management program, current student Carolyn Roose was working as a consultant for Perkins+Will, an architecture and planning firm, where she focused on green building and sustainability planning work. Carolyn chose the MSSM program because she wanted to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to transition into a career in sustainable investing – a goal that she has already accomplished during her time as a student. Carolyn credits the MSSM program with shaping the way she understands economics and sustainability’s crucial role in investment management.

1. What drew you to the Master of Science in Sustainability Management (MSSM)?

Before starting the MSSM program I worked as a consultant for Perkins+Will, an architecture and planning firm, where I focused on green building and sustainability planning work.  While the projects were fun and challenging, I wanted to expand my understanding of sustainability beyond the built environment; I wanted to understand how economics, finance and policy also drive sustainability decisions.

2. What do you intend to do professionally once you achieve your degree?

I currently work at Sustainable Insight Capital Management, an asset management firm with a focus on sustainable investing. I hope to continue working in the sustainable investing field. It is an exciting and evolving field as more institutional investors – universities, foundations, corporations, etc. – are adopting an investment approach that takes into account today’s sustainability risks and opportunities.

3. What do you think is the most important sustainability challenge?

I believe the most important sustainability challenge facing all types of organizations is the challenge of alignment. Many of today’s companies are making tremendous progress in some realms of sustainability – such as in in their real estate portfolios or community outreach programs. But the commitment to sustainability is not always consistent throughout the different lines of business or divisions. Likewise, universities are increasingly implementing sustainability programs and many foundations are leaders in environmental and social grant-making. But their endowment investments don’t necessarily reflect this. These are simply missed opportunities.

4. What skills and tools have you acquired through the program so far?

I have acquired many practical skills in this program. I went to a liberal arts college and while I feel that I graduated with strong critical thinking and communication skills, I was eager to learn skills such as statistics, accounting and finance. Having these tools equips me to engage in more effective communication with a range of businesses, clients and investors because I understand their drivers better.

5. How have you applied what you’ve learned in the program so far?

When it became clear to me that I wanted to focus on the role of finance and the capital markets within the sustainability field, I was able to tailor my classes and projects to support that. I took classes in the MSSM program, such as Investor Relations, as well as courses in other programs, such as Corporate Governance at Columbia’s Business School. I also teamed up with a friend and classmate to develop a capstone project, “Navigating ESG Data for Foundations,” that aligns well with my interests. I apply what I’ve learned in these classes and projects every day at my job.

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

Sustainable Finance taught by Professor Bruce Kahn. After being a consultant I had a pretty clear understanding of sustainability challenges that businesses and organizations face. It wasn’t until the first day of Sustainable Finance when Professor Kahn said, “You are what you finance,” that I realized that I had been missing a big piece of the sustainability puzzle.

7. How has collaborating with your fellow students in projects in the classroom benefitted you professionally and personally?

Being the deputy manager of my capstone project “Navigating ESG Data for Foundations” has taught me a lot about management, teamwork and effective communication. While members of the capstone team have had many of the same classes and professors, we all approach the project with a very diverse range of interests, skills and experiences.  Collaborating with a group of people with a variety of professional and academic backgrounds is a very realistic experience—a good primer for all future jobs.  I’m confident I will have friendships and professional relationships with my team members, classmates and professors for many years to come.

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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