I’ve always known I had wanted to study abroad since I traveled to France with my high school French class. When I began thinking about where I wanted to go as a sophomore at Ohio State, I was at a loss. My inclination was to find a French-based program, but I felt that wouldn’t be as relevant to my studies as a Business major with a Sustainability (EEDS) minor. I also knew I didn’t want to spend a semester away from all my friends and commitments in Columbus. A friend told me about the Sustainable Business Global Lab, so I attended an info session. I was drawn to the idea of a program which was not only relevant to my career path but also included two global centers of sustainability, the Netherlands and Sweden. The two-week program would also end before the start of my summer internship, so with that I submitted my application.
During this trip, I was astounded by how many different companies we were able to visit and learn from in only two weeks. We were able to have dynamic conversations with professionals working in fields of sustainability I hadn’t even known existed. One of my favorite visits was to a company which works with “green bonds” or loans on projects with a major sustainability contribution. They also rank other companies by their sustainability efforts so that investors can make educated decisions. At another amazing company we visited, the CEO and founder told his story of how he invented a machine that uses wasted steam as a source for renewable energy. These companies are attacking sustainability from all angles and range from multinational corporate giants to small startups with ten employees. I was so excited to be learning all the ways that sustainability could be applied to real-life problems.
What surprised me most on this trip is how integral sustainability is to every facet of life in the cities we visited. I had high expectations considering the reputation of these countries but was still amazed. Almost every restroom featured efficient plumbing, alternatives to paper towels, and low-energy lighting. Trash cans always had a recycling bin attached. Bikes were much more abundant than cars. The companies we visited proved that they are no different. Regardless of the size or industry of the company, sustainability is prioritized. For instance, Akzo-Nobel, a large chemical manufacturer, has an extensive sustainable procurement and purchasing plan. These observations were tied together by a local I spoke to in Sweden, noting that there is a strong urge to care for the community.
Until last year, I had not even considered traveling to Scandinavia. The Sustainable Business Global Lab provided me with an easy way to explore the amazing perspectives, culture, and ideas of these countries and learn in depth about their sustainability efforts in a relatively short time frame. I am so grateful that I was able to embark on this Global Lab which gave me the opportunity to study what I’m passionate about alongside a group of amazing people.