State of the Planet

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Entrepreneurial MS Alum Finds Sustainable Solutions alongside Former Classmates

M.S. in Sustainability Management alum John Haugen ('13)
M.S. in Sustainability Management alumnus John Haugen (’13)

Alumnus John Haugen (‘13) began his career in a Chicago management consulting firm with a focus on marketing and data analytics. After living  and working in Chicago for six years, John decided that he wanted to continue his career as a consultant in New York, but with an added focus on sustainability. Upon graduating from the program, he, along with two of his former MSSM classmates, co-founded Third Partners LLC, a sustainability consulting firm which advises organizations on GHG emissions reporting, sustainable marketing, branding, and energy efficiency.

1. What is your current job?

I am a Sustainability Advisor at Third Partners LLC, a firm in New York that I co-founded with Adam Freedgood and Matthew Codner, both MSSM alumni. We advise organizations on various sustainability initiatives including GHG emissions reporting, sustainable marketing, branding, and energy efficiency.

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

Going into the MSSM program, it was my intent to transition to sustainability consulting. Because my career thus far has been in management consulting (with a stint as co-founder of a technology startup), it was a natural fit for me to form Third Partners with Adam and Matt and continue management consulting, albeit with a new focus on sustainability.

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

There is one skill I use every day: seeking out facts and data before drawing conclusions about a sustainability issue. One course I took as an MS student, Industrial Ecology, taught by Christoph Meinrenken, really helped me to hone this skill. Data, facts, and sound logic are very important in this field.

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

Any good consultant is continually acquiring new information and skills to bring the best solutions to clients. My work at Third Partners involves many exciting challenges, and I learn something new every day. It’s impossible to pinpoint specific skills or tools. Rather, I will continue to enhance my advisory and consulting skills, which involves many topics at this point.

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

For me there is a very tangible benefit from MSSM: Adam, Matt, and I first worked together on our Capstone project. Along with a fantastic group of MSSM colleagues, we developed a plan for the headquarters building of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to become a net-zero site energy building in a 10-year timeframe. This was a great foray into facilities-based sustainability consulting, and was a great test ground for the three of us to work together before forming Third Partners. Aside from that, MSSM has introduced me to many people whom I consider great friends.

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

Any environmental initiative considered by a company is going to have a significantly better chance of adoption if it fits the company culture, goals, and long-term strategy. Every day, we work to provide solutions that are not only environmentally sustainable but also organizationally sustainable. This requires creativity, flexibility, and intuition as much as it requires knowledge of true environmental sustainability. Specifically, I think there is opportunity in carbon mitigation as it relates to impact investing.

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

I will continue to leverage the Columbia, EI, and MSSM network to develop meaningful business relationships. Additionally I will continue to apply what I learned in various courses to improving the environmental footprint of client organizations.

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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