State of the Planet

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Alum Leads Coach’s Sustainability Initiatives

MS in Sustainability Management alumna Amanda Lechenet ('13)
MS in Sustainability Management alum Amanda Lechenet (’13)

Prior to attending the Master of Science in Sustainability Management program, Amanda Lechenet (’13), worked within the food service and retail food industries as an agricultural economist and cost manager, specializing in the protein industry. Amanda spent seven years within these industries before deciding to purse a graduate degree. During her time in the MSSM program, Amanda worked for a solar architecture firm, a food manufacturing firm, and spent time as a curriculum and grading assistant for Economics of Sustainability Management. Currently, Amanda is a corporate sustainability strategy manager at Coach Inc. and hopes that the work she does at Coach will provide her with the experience and the opportunity necessary to one day open her own consulting firm focusing on sustainable education.

1. What is your current job?

I am responsible for the publication of the corporate social responsibility report, Conflict Minerals Program, and serve as a company liaison for all the sustainability related issues and topics. Coach also recently acquired Stuart Weitzman, and I am responsible for their sustainability and conflict minerals program under the Coach family of brands. My job requires me to be driving the future of sustainability at Coach, as the company pushes through a major image facelift in order to improve their sales. Sustainability will play an instrumental role as the face of Coach changes and revitalizes.

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

Yes. I had been seeking a manager level position within the sustainability industry. Having spent my early career as an analyst, I wanted to move up the company ladder, while also working to have a positive impact on the environment. With my position at Coach, I’ve achieved the first step of my post-graduation plan. I wanted to gain experience at a private firm in management and sustainability. This will lend to my future plans to open my own consulting firm. I have plans to expand my business as my hands-on experience with corporate sustainability accrues. As my knowledge of practices within the industries grows, I will be able to provide better consultative services.

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

I believe that all of my classes in the MSSM program provided me with a well-rounded view of sustainability. I tried to make my time in the program as comprehensive as possible so that I could achieve my program goals. I believe what I have learned in the Greenhouse Gas Emissions class will be very helpful in trying to expand Coach’s carbon footprint to include Scope 3 sources. Claudia Dreifus’ class on Writing about Global Science for the International Media has also been very helpful for re-vamping the Coach corporate social responsibility report.

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

I hope to grow my understanding of corporate sustainability. I’ve worked my entire career within the private sector, and have a good understanding of how the company is driven by the shareholders. I hope to understand how sustainability decisions (what is best for the environment) are compromised by business decisions, and to truly recognize where that happy medium currently is, and how far it can be pushed while still making business profitable.

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

I have made many good friends through the MSSM program, and I have also made great professional contacts. The program introduced me to like-minded people who share common goals, and that’s important. In the future, having these like-minds to bounce off ideas and to collaborate with is exciting, especially as we all grow within our respective fields. The collaboration has also helped me understand how people work and how to be a better manager.

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

I hope to include product greenhouse gas life cycle assessments, begin a better management of the Conflict Minerals Program to ensure zero conflict metals in Coach products, and make a more robust report for corporate social responsibility. I also hope to collaborate with other companies within the luxury retail industry to drive sustainability as a whole. Sustainability is a group effort, just as much as everyone shares the atmosphere. We need to share our successes with others in order to achieve substantial progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions as a planet.

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

One day, I hope to open my own consulting firm with a branch that focuses on sustainability education. It would be great to eventually employ recent graduates of the MSSM program.

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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