“Studying International Management - I did not expect to fall in love with Sustainability.”

Hi – I’m Simona, studying an MSc in International Management at the University of Cumbria in Lancaster.

A group of female business students, dressed up and sat at a table at their graduation ball.

This is me at the Graduation Ball with my friends (far left).

I chose to study International Management because I find the prospect of travelling the world and working for global organisations fascinating, something I fully intend to do when I graduate!

However, throughout my course, I have come to realise the impact sustainability has on business – this is something I really enjoyed learning about and I’m here to share what I’ve learned.

Why is business sustainability important?

While researching about Tesla and their quest to provide eco-friendly vehicles for the customer, I came across some interesting and scary statistics about climate change and how it’s occurring. For example, billions of metric tons of CO2 are released into the atmosphere every year, with a record of 37 gigatons released in 2018 [1]. To help you picture that vast amount, imagine nearly five billion elephants floating above our planet. And when it comes to plastic, the total amount ever made is the same as 1 billion elephants – and this is only since 1950 when large-scale production of plastic began. This plastic, along with other types of waste, is often ditched in other countries. For example, Malaysia has been a dumping ground for rubbish from many countries, which they are now shipping back as they refuse to become a “garbage dump of the world” [2]. 

However, after watching ‘Cowspiracy’ in a recent seminar, it seems that the biggest threat to society and its sustainability is the agriculture industry. The amount of water and crops that are spent on feeding livestock is the largest burden. These huge numbers and scary examples made me realise the real threat that climate change has on our world – and the importance of sustainable development. 

These facts and statistics are just some of the reasons that global climate change is imminent – which I admittingly was sceptical about for some time. But lo and behold, some scientists give us until 2030 before the changes will be irreversible, with some saying that this is already the case [3]. This New Year has also seen Larry Fink – a businessman and money management advisor – addressing for the first time, the importance of climate change and the action needed to be taken. Although he views it from a financial point of view, his voice on the matter shows the prevalence. 

It’s also fairly worrisome to see young high school children – such as Greta Thunberg – have their education taken away from them as they stand up against those at fault for this environmental issue. At the recent Davos 2020 meeting, she shared frightening facts, as well as putting this issue into very simple terms: “as long as we do not treat this crisis as a crisis, we will not solve this crisis”.  

Who is helping:

This slightly pessimistic (or more so realistic) tone can be counteracted when we look at all the things various people and businesses are doing to help. Most notably, there is an array of documentaries that have both highlighted the alarming issue, as well as the support provided by various groups. 

Large organisations such as Tesla launched a range of all-electric cars which have allowed them to save 3.5 million tons of CO2 to date [4], and Costa got rid of plastic straws back in 2018. Clothing brands, such as Adidas, have begun innovating recycled plastic into some of their shoes. This crisis has also made way for niche ‘green’ companies to gain traction, such as Gwyneth Paltrow’s ‘Goop’ which is so green that she eats it! These businesses are becoming increasingly popular, with 49% of Generation Z apparently searching for these natural products.

This issue has even probed countries to take measures. India has set goals to get more electric vehicles on their roads, with all three-wheelers to be electric by 2023 [5]. Although this is very ambitious and possibly far-fetched, the thought behind it is good. 

Tips to live sustainably as a student:

All in all, the crisis is obvious, and environmental sustainability is very necessary. 

To try and do your part, the best thing would be to follow the age-old saying – take small steps. Rather than trying to change everything (unless you can and want to), try and make small changes in your daily life. For example, I recently bought a reusable coffee cup to make up for the countless cups I’ve thrown away after one use. 

Skincare and beauty lovers can still get their fix by opting for more eco-friendly brands, which don’t always have to come at a high price. 

Foodies can choose restaurants and cafés that choose sustainability over profits. Around Lancaster, more and more independent and quirky spots are popping up that offer vegan and vegetarian options (which are usually much better for the environment) and offer eco-friendly take-away packaging rather than plastic alternatives. 

On top of making small changes, you could equally start a course that could make you the next advocate for sustainable change. Whether this is through the ‘sustainable leadership’ course which will teach you to transform businesses that face climate issues or attending the ‘international management’ course which hosts modules regarding sustainability – which is how I became so interested in the topic.  

This sparked interest has driven me to search for future jobs that could allow me to support the environment through my growing knowledge of sustainability. It’s also urged me to search for voluntary opportunities around Lancaster so I can do my part – such as litter picking on Morecambe beach, or becoming an advocate for recycling.

Wherever my future takes me, my knowledge and interest will stick with me.  

 References:

[1] Global Carbon Project, 2019 (http://www.globalcarbonatlas.org/en/CO2-emissions)

[2] BBC News 2019 (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-asia-48438364/malaysia-orders-tonnes-of-imported-waste-to-be-returned)

[3] The Guardian, 2018 (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/oct/08/global-warming-must-not-exceed-15c-warns-landmark-un-report)

[4] Tesla, 2019 (https://www.tesla.com/en_GB/carbonimpact)

[5] BBC News, 2019 (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-48961525)