State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Sustainability Management Student Streamlines National Recycling Programs

Current MS in Sustainability Management student Jeremy Simpson
Current MS in Sustainability Management student Jeremy Simpson

Current Master of Science in Sustainability Management student Jeremy Simpson joined the program because it allowed him to examine his interests in economics, business, and operations research through the lens of sustainability. Jeremy was inspired to work in sustainability because he believes that it is the best way to make a positive impact globally. Now he is doing just that as an analyst at Recyclebank, a startup company that helps communities across the United States to improve their residential recycling programs by providing economic incentives to residents.

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

Currently I work as an Analyst at Recyclebank, a startup company that helps communities across the United States to improve their residential recycling programs by providing economic incentives to residents when they recycle. My responsibilities include tracking and studying the impact of marketing initiatives that Recyclebank runs in its client communities, as well as conducting research into waste management systems around the country, among other things.

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

When I applied to graduate schools in 2012, I was mostly interested in a graduate degree in economics, business, or operations research, any of which I felt would prepare me well for a career as an environmental policy analyst, corporate sustainability manager or public administrator. I chose the Sustainability Management program over these other programs because it allowed me to pursue education in all of those subjects while further supplementing this education with course work in sustainable business practices.

3. What inspired you to work in sustainability?

The short answer is: if you’re interested in a career in altruism and would like that career to touch the greatest number of lives – locally, globally, today and into the future – I don’t believe you could accomplish this better than by becoming a sustainability manager. I feel it is incumbent upon those of us who recognize the importance of sustainability to try to make an impact in this space.

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

At Recyclebank, my role I often have to advise decision-makers on how to improve upon their effectiveness or efficiency. One of my biggest accomplishments along these lines has been to utilize analysis of the company’s marketing tactics to streamline the comprehensive marketing program Recyclebank uses to support its largest client community – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – which serves roughly 500,000 households. This change yielded savings to the company in the tens of thousands of dollars over the next three years of that contract.

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

I apply the tools I learned in my microeconomics education through the MSSM program regularly in my current role while studying and forecasting the costs and impacts of a variety of business functions. I also occasionally use what I’ve learned studying decision models and database structure through my analytics coursework in the program to perform special types of financial analyses and database queries, respectively.

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

My favorite class in the MSSM program so far has been Cost-Benefit Analysis, which has proven to be the most practical course I’ve taken at Columbia – both in the MSSM program and in the Certificate in Quantitative Studies for Finance I completed at Columbia before this. I’ve used the material learned from this course to perform financial analysis in several different professional settings over the past three years, and it has provided me with invaluable perspective into how organizations monetize environmental and societal impacts.

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

In professional circles, it can sometimes be hard to find others with a passion for sustainability, and in environmental circles it can be hard to find others with a passion for the business side of these issues. The beauty of the MSSM program is that most of the students have an interest in both of these topics. Collaborating with like-minded individuals on projects of real-world importance has been one of the most fun and exciting parts of participating in this program.

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

My goal is to move into a role in policy analysis and eventually project management for governments and development corporations, and a Master of Science degree is a pre-requisite for most of the jobs I am looking at. My hope is that the environmental concentration of my degree and the wealth of analytical tools I am gaining from it will also serve as key differentiators as I apply for these jobs moving forward.

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

One piece of advice would be to research the job market as soon as possible to understand what types of roles are being offered and what skill sets are required for someone to be a competitive applicant for them. Another piece of advice is to devote as much energy as you can to networking; your network is one of your greatest assets in succeeding in any career, sustainability or otherwise, and mine has been of immeasurable help to me so far.

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.  

Banner featuring a collage of extreme heat images.

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

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments