While visiting Rockwool, a leader in stone wool insulation designed to focus on energy efficiency, sound absorption, fire resilience, and durability, the Head of Stakeholder Engagement demonstrated the effectiveness of the stone wool. This was fist done by showing our group a small, noisy room that was unable to be heard due to the high-quality insulation, and another example was a fire being lit under a block of stone wool with no negative reaction occurring once the fire hit the block. After the demonstrations, our group had the opportunity to speak with the Rockwool presenters about their sustainability efforts, including a preview of Rockwool’s 2016 sustainability report that was being released the morning of our visit. We then were able to discuss the company’s contribution toward achieving 10 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which sparked a good conversation with the group about Rockwool working toward achieving all 17 goals since some of their efforts within the other 10 overlap with other SDGs that they are not discussing within the sustainably report.
In between our business meetings, we spent a day visiting two of Copenhagen’s cultural highlights; the Little Mermaid statue and Christianborg palace. Little Mermaid statue, inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s fairytale is one of the country’s biggest tourist attractions. We spent a cloudy morning wandering around the statue, which was buzzing with tourists and visited by a resident heron. While she previously looked out to the sea, Copenhagen’s development means the Little Mermaid now watches over Dong Energy’s offshore windmills.
In the afternoon, donning comical plastic shoe covers, we toured the grandeur of Christiansborg palace, the home of the Danish Royal Family. The rooms were furnished with elegant wooden furniture, elaborate flocked wallpaper and vivid marble insets. Our guide regaled us with snippets of knowledge, such as the fact that the immense chandeliers in the dining hall were purchased very cheaply second hand from another European monarch, who later wanted to have them back upon visiting Christiansborg on a state visit! One of Denmark’s large industrial families gifted the Queen with a set of large-scale tapestries which depict various scenes, including modern historical events. The works were fascinating, with their neon colors, modern style and intricate details. When the tapestries room was renovated with a painted trompe-l’oeil marble effect, the painter incorporated the queen’s profile into the marble pattern!
As we landed in the city of Copenhagen, it was clear that the city has integrated a green economy and a sustainable lifestyle in a way that is not commonly seen in the United States. Wind turbines lined the horizon and bicycles filled the streets. In Copenhagen, an estimated 50% of the city’s 570,000 people use bikes to get from one point to the other. Biking is not only the preferred mode of transportation but also an easy, environmentally-friendly and safe way to get around. Biker safety is prioritized with things like bike-only stop lights that alert cyclists when to stop or go and bike lanes, many of which are roughly the same size as traditional car lanes and are curbed to separate the bikers from cars. On our last full day in the city, we were fortunate to be able to experience the city by bike. On our tour, we rode single file along the water, on the cobbled streets and through the bustling streets among other tourists and native commuters. Ultimately, we were able to experience how the city’s infrastructure and culture has allowed pedestrians, drivers and cyclists to co-exist in harmony.
At the Port of Tallinn, the biggest port on the shores of the Baltic Sea, we had the opportunity to hear about some of the sustainability practices that the Port has implemented to reduce the its carbon footprint. Port of Tallinn operates as a landlord type of port with no cargo handling operations of its own. It maintains and develops the infrastructure of the port and leases territories to terminal operators.
Before our arrival, a team of students was tasked with researching and understanding the measurement and reduction of carbon footprints among other large Scandinavian ports, including the Ports of Rotterdam, Oslo, Gothenburg and Stockholm. The team presented its findings as we had an open discussion about the Port of Tallinn’s strategic outlook as it works to reduce Scope 3 emissions. This means influencing both its customers and the community in which it is located to move towards more sustainable practices in terms of areas such as cargo, real estate development, shipping and cruise ship travel.
One of the first experiences in Tallinn, Estonia that showed us the country’s progress towards sustainable development was our visit to e-Estonia, where we learned about the success and advancement of their e-government initiative. Our group was escorted into a showroom where policy makers, political leaders and corporate executives from all over the world gather to discuss topics such as cyber security and be inspired to implement a digital society by recognizing the successful example of e-Estonia. In this room, we had the opportunity to get a brief look at what it is like to live as an Estonian citizen. We learned that the initiative started before the turn of the century with the education of citizens of all ages on basic computer skills, as well as online safety. Next, the Estonian government started gradually introducing new programs (e.g. chipped ID cards) and linking these programs with government services such as iVoting. By making e-services convenient, transparent and easily integrated into everyday life, the concept was popularized and widely accepted.
During our visit with a representative from Estonia’s Sustainable Development Commission, we discussed Estonia’s approach to implementing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the challenges of involving the private sector. Some of the challenges were encouraging the private sector to report on progress, as well as some conflicting interests – such as Estonia’s reliance on carbon-intensive shale gas for energy needs. Gender pay gap and productivity were other areas that the Commission hoped to tackle through the implementation of the SDGs. Based on our visit with digital Estonia, we saw a potential opportunity to use Estonia’s advanced digital infrastructure to improve private sector SDG reporting and progress.
The first few days of our trip were spent in Estonia, a small country that gained its independence roughly 25 years ago. Although Estonia is a leader in technology, the Old Town of Tallinn takes visitors back in time to the 13th century. When first arriving in the Old Town of Tallinn, its medieval charm and winding cobblestone streets stood out to our group right away. The old cobblestone streets were lined with medieval homes, ancient churches, restaurants, guard towers, shops, museums, galleries, warehouses, and pastel-colored merchant houses. Some of these buildings were modern but some dated all the way back to the Middle Ages. Some of our adventures in Tallinn included walking around the town center, climbing numerous towers, observing the incredible architecture of Alexander Nevsky’s Cathedral, eating Estonian cuisine (which is largely based off meat, potatoes, soup, and fish), and standing on top of Toompea Hill which is where the first fortress was built that overlooks the entire Old Town. Old Town is enclosed by a stone wall and many towers, separating it from the more modern part of the city right outside the walls. During our exploration, outside of the city walls to Kadriog Park near the water, our group soon noticed the drastic change in architecture from old to new. Although we enjoyed exploring more of the city outside of the walls, our group spent the last day in Tallinn exploring the sights in Old Town and enjoying a medieval dinner where music was playing and our waiters dressed the part.
One of the features that sets the MBA Sustainable Business Practices apart from other programs is consulting projects. We have the opportunity to take the lead in every aspect of project development with our respective client, which enables us to develop unique and informed solutions across different business functions. Our consulting teams have been busy the past two weeks preparing and conducting mid-point client reviews and receiving feedback on research that has been conducted up to this point.
Last Friday, my SYKES Enterprises consulting team members and I left Pittsburgh at 5am and headed east to visit one of the client’s operations facilities in Allentown, Pennsylvania (SYKES conducts business process outsourcing. The facility we visited handled customer service calls for Medicare recipients in California and Oregon). During the visit, we met with the site director, toured the operations floor, conversed with mid-level management teams, and gathered a strong understanding of the daily business operations at the call center.
The Allentown site visit was a key component of our research for the larger ongoing research being conducted by my SYKES consulting team. The ability to see firsthand operations and speak with company leadership allowed our team to better understand the SYKES company dynamics and goals, with the intention of creating a well-developed consulting recommendation by the end of this semester.
Last week several of our cohort members took a break from classes to attend the National Black MBA Association (NBMAA) Conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. According to the NBMBAA conferences’ website, “The 2017 Annual Conference & Exposition presented by NBMBAA® & Prospanica® featured an array of programming designed to help attendees expand their leadership capabilities while learning valuable information to increase marketability in a highly-competitive landscape. Entrepreneurs, students and seasoned professionals were enriched by exclusive networking opportunities and invaluable industry knowledge.” Our cohort attendees mingled and networked with a wide array of business professionals from across the country, while representing Duquesne University and the MBA Sustainable Business Practices program.
Attendance at professional conferences are a part of the ongoing Career Practicum course requirements, and some of the costs of attending are covered by Duquesne, making the experience very accessible. The intention is to give us the opportunity to meet business leader’s employers, and fellow students, network, and learn about cutting-edge trends in the business world. The National Black MBA Association Conference was just one of many conferences that our cohort team members will attend in the upcoming months; several members will attend conferences in places such as Atlanta, Boston, and Orlando.
Despite all the fun at conferences, it is hard to believe that the mid way point of the semester is upon us. As we get ready to finish one class, two more are about to begin in less than two weeks, leaving no doubt that the rest of the semester will remain busy.
The theme of last week and early this week has been presentations, presentations, and more presentations. One of the most critical skills for a business leader to master is the ability to take an overwhelming amount of information, decipher, and present it to peers and supervisors in a concise and understandable way. The past week has been full of this for our cohort.
The better part of last week was spent preparing for group presentations that are taking place early this week. On Monday in Dr. Sroufe’s Strategic Sustainability and Models class, members of our cohort presented on the challenges and benefits of integrated reporting, as well as the practical application of natural capitalism. Both topics helped members of our cohort understand the various tools that can be used to when faced with a sustainable business dilemma.
On Tuesday in Dr. Spangler’s Information Systems class, small groups will present on topics such as 3D printing, notorious security breaches, and safe computing practices. These topics are some of the major areas of concern and interest in relation to information technology in the workplace today and must be understood by future and current business leaders.
It is hard to imagine that after preparing for presentations our cohort would have time to focus on any other tasks. But as the temperatures have risen since last week here in Pittsburgh, so have the tasks that need to be completed during this, busy semester. Our cohort has also been challenged by completing financial analysis tables, engaging in lively round table discussions on supply and demand in economics, and continuing to meet with project partners and develop a business strategy.
But as September comes to a rapid end, the good news is Thanksgiving break is roughly only two months away.