In case you missed it: “People, Planet, Profit: Careers in Corporate Sustainability”

In our In Case You Missed It series (also known as ICYMI), students working at the Office of Sustainability offer reflective reports on sustainability-related events and lectures at UW–Madison. The following entry is by Bailey Kestner.

On Tuesday, September 13th, the Wisconsin School of Business and the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies hosted People, Planet, Profit: Careers in Corporate Sustainability. The event featured a panel of five alumni who summarized their experiences in corporate sustainability and offered students advice on how to progress towards their own careers in the field.

The panel opened with Mike Forbes, CEO of Safely, a refillable cleaning supply company founded by Kris Jenner and Emma Grede. Mike detailed his experience working in a variety of different companies to further sustainability initiatives and the ways that he now is able to balance the protection of our planet and people with business profit. “Sustainability matters to everyone,” Forbes said when discussing the feasibility and maintenance of sustainable business.

Christian Truong then joined the webinar from San Francisco, California to discuss his work with Hooray Foods, where he works as a materials engineer to expand the boundaries of compostable food packaging. Truong was adamant that the key to success for students is to “not turn down opportunity.”

The next panelist was none other than the Office of Sustainability’s own Riley Collins, who was a student intern from 2019-2020. Now he is working in New York City on renewable energy solutions in real estate development. In talking about the future directions of business in a sustainable world, he observed that “business’s role in society is to help distribute and facilitate [new] technologies and to implement them quickly, efficiently, and equitably.” 

Next, Cindy Bohlen focused on the benefits of businesses pursuing sustainability. In Bohlen’s work with Riverwater Partners, a sustainable investment firm, she strives to “protect people and planet, which ultimately leads to profit.” She expertly summarized how, without sustainable business, business itself will cease to be possible. “The movement is toward a sustainable system,” she said. “We are starting to understand that if we don’t pay attention to climate change and water and fair wages and things like that then we are not providing a sound ecosystem and economy for all businesses to be successful.”

The final panelist was Marty Muenzmaier, the senior director of sustainability for Cargill. When he was asked about what students should be pursuing in their education to attain a career in sustainability, he argued that all fields of study can connect to sustainability. Furthermore, he suggested that students can pursue what they are passionate about and it can be tied to the triple bottom line of planet, people, and profit. 

Overall, the event was an excellent opportunity for students to hear from people working in the field of business sustainability who were once in their very seats and classes. If you missed the event, and would like to watch back on the recorded version, check it out here: