What Comes Next? Life after Sustainable Business Global Lab

Senior Colleen Magee reflects on how her time in Denmark and The Netherlands continues to shape her life and future career in sustainability.

Returning home from Denmark and The Netherlands, I felt re-inspired to help bring sustainability to the corporate world. Everyone I met on Sustainable Business Global Lab was driven and fun, the business sites were unique and informative, and the guest lectures at other international schools were enlightening. The confidence I felt returning home made me into a go-getter.

So what did I do once I came home?

Went straight to my internship eager to learn and also give back. After two weeks at my internship, I saw an opportunity to present to the company I interned with, IGS Energy, on Sustainability and Sustainable business. Long story short, that’s exactly what I did this summer, applied what I learned abroad, back home in a professional manner. I approached my manager with an idea that I felt would be extremely useful for the company, and immediately was given support. Then I created a presentation about sustainability, presented in 3 separate sessions to a classroom of 18 professionals and received incredible feedback, scoring letters of recommendation from my study abroad professor and my internship manager who highlighted on my project. The inspiration I felt coming home, gave me the courage to follow through with this project, which ended up being an amazing experience that aided my growth as a professional.

One more perk to this Global Lab, the food is awesome…especially the breakfast.

What you can take from my story? Study abroad, but more importantly, go on a trip that will inspire you to be successful in your future career. This trip was highly engaging, and offered cutting edge information that’s not always an available resource on campus. Take it from me that Sustainable Business Global Lab helped me become a much more driven and knowledgeable individual in my field.

Intro to Ireland – My first few weeks adventuring in Ireland

As Grace Hutchinson starts her semester at Trinity College in Ireland, she shares her first adventures landing on the Irish island. From starting at her new school to traveling to amazing sites in Ireland.

For Fall Semester 2016 I decided to embark on the adventure on the Student Exchange Program. I chose Trinity College Dublin, located not surprisingly in Dublin, Ireland. I should tell you this is not my first visit to Ireland so I didn’t experience the usual culture shock (i.e. outlets must be switched on for them to work and driving on the other side of the road.) I actually have dual citizenship with the U.S. and Ireland as my father moved to the states for work, were in an adorable fashion he meet my mom. I have traveled to Ireland throughout my life visiting family, but I really wanted the chance to experience what normal long-term everyday life was like. You never really see the whole story of a city’s when you are a tourist. I was kind of shocked to find that a few students also studying abroad here were in the same situation as me, and had similar stories of visiting family throughout the years.

Croke Park: the national stadium where all GAA finals are or the All Irelands. GAA sports include Hurling and Gaelic football.

When I got my acceptance letter I started to worry about the logistics of finding classes and how to register for them, knowing that the European school system would be very different from what I am used to at OSU. How would I get to campus and navigate the paper-based registration system? I was directed by past exchange students to take a look at the Semester Startup Program (SSP) and would recommend it for anyone thinking of exchanging to Trinity. The SSP program helps international students not only get a good intro to Trinity, before the mass of students arrive, but also includes lectures that cover Ireland’s history, culture, and global connections. I have learned some things that even my dad didn’t know. For example, did you know that Ireland was one of the only countries in Europe to consistently have gender equal migration? We also visited some amazing sights including Croke Park, Trim castle and the Hill of Tara. Those are all must see places for anyone venturing to Ireland. (Croke Park: the national stadium where all GAA finals are or the All Irelands. GAA sports include Hurling and Gaelic football.)

Some of the work you will have to do in SSP is the graded assignments, three papers to be exact, as well as lectures every day. They haven’t been too overwhelming and I have to admit they have been a great introductory to U.K. spelling and Trinity’s Citation Policy as well as prepare me for school to start. My papers so far have been on W.B. Yeats and Robert Emmet, two people I really didn’t know about until this class. But don’t worry there has been plenty of time to explore and we have already wondered outside Dublin to the seaside town of Dalkey. We saw castles and boats but no dolphins. It also was not raining for our day of exploration which in Ireland is a very rare thing indeed.

Taught my new friends O-H-I-O, taken in the small town of Dalkey right outside Dublin

When I first saw Trinity as a kid I though it looked like a castle, I really couldn’t imagine it as a school. Now that I am here and classes are about to start I still can’t see how people stay focused when the campus is so pretty and historical. Trinity is a lot smaller than OSU and it is completely fenced in with about three ways in, so I am really looking forward to the day when I learn how to avoid the many tourists that come to Trinity daily. I must now accidently be in so many trip photos. As of now, though, I’m currently working on my final paper for SSP and trying not to worry about signing up for classes, which I can’t do until the week before they start.

Ready for Delivery: Project with DHL Supply Chain

Marketing Global Lab 2016 in Singapore. FCOB undergraduates Lauren Barry, Devin Horton, Shelby Smith, Mack Watts, and MBA mentor Paul Webb explain their project deliverable for DHL Supply Chain.

Entering Singapore, our team was tasked by DHL Supply Chain to research the manufacturing opportunity that was being created by the newly formed ASEAN Economic Community and how DHL may be able to capitalize on that opportunity. After seven weeks of thorough research, our team was ready to provide our progressive recommendations that we found.

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FCOB undergraduate participants in Marketing Global Lab take to the stage to present their recommendations to DHL Supply Chain.

Going into Tuesday, the team was ready to go. We had spent the previous night rehearsing and felt confident in our preparation. Upon waking up, we all met downstairs to have a team breakfast and present one last time in front of Dr. Matta to gain his seal of confidence prior to getting in front of DHL’s executives. We were relaxed and had pep in our step as we rode the bus out to DHL’s office.

Upon arrival, we were thrilled to find that we would be presenting in the newly built, Asia Pacific Innovation Center, a space that DHL uses as a think tank and community center for its thriving business partners. The center was one of the coolest places that any of us have ever been, and what followed was nothing short of exciting.

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With a new pep in their step, members of Team DHL Supply Chain celebrate a job well down with faculty Dr. Shashi Matta.

Ross Ballantyne, the head of marketing of the Asia Pacific region at DHL, took the floor and set the stage for the whole morning. After DHL’s presentation, our team took the stage and spoke to both Ross and his colleague Nidhi. Shelby and Lauren started the presentation with a bang, allowing Devin and Mack to finish with progressive recommendations for DHL to take going forward into the development of the AEC. This experience provided team DHL with an amazing opportunity to showcase what we learned in professor Matta’s class and apply it to a real business solution.

Wendy’s for the Win: Team Wendy’s Presents to Executives

Marketing Global Lab 2016 in Singapore. FCOB undergraduates Alexis Lambos, Olivia Chancellor, Max Olberding, Andy Landaverde, and MBA mentor Elena Pipino recount the morning they presented to Wendy’s executives.

Our fourth day of Singapore began by waking up slightly earlier than the other teams to begin final preparation for our presentation to the Wendy’s Asia Pacific team. We were all a little nervous but also so excited because we had spent the last three months working hard on the project.

We all boarded the bus and arrived at the meeting location—the American Club in Singapore.

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Members of the Wendy’s Team show their OSU pride by posing with a Block O following their presentation to company executives.

The Wendy’s team welcomed us with a warm greeting. John Pain, the VP & Managing Director for Asia Pacific & EMEA, and his team began by introducing themselves and sharing more about their roles within the company. John continued by presenting insights about the Asian consumers and how Wendy’s has been able to successfully adapt the brand within this market.

After John’s presentation we took a brief break and then set up our PowerPoint.

We shared with the Wendy’s team research and recommendations that we had collected over the last few months, specifically regarding the way better burger chains could threaten Wendy’s in the Asian market. While the project was challenging, the experience of presenting to John and his team and hearing their positive feedback was extremely rewarding. After we concluded our presentation, we had a bit of free time to mingle and network with the Wendy’s team.

Marketing through a New Lens: Presenting to Johnson & Johnson

Marketing Global Lab 2016 in Singapore. FCOB undergraduates Cory Bonda, Kyle Hubbard, Amelia Gulick, and MBA mentor Lindsey Durham describe what it means to have time with multiple top-tier marketing executives at Johnson & Johnson.

Thursday morning was the visit to Johnson & Johnson’s Asia Pacific headquarters. We presented a project on Acuvue define contact lenses to multiple top-tier executives. They provided great feedback on our presentation and asked quite a few questions to gain more insight and detail on our ideas. This discussion was actually held with the president of the Acuvue brand in the Asia Pacific, who was very impressed and engaged with our work.

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FCOB students and Johnson & Johnson executives pose for a picture follow student recommendations.

Due to other obligations and a busy schedule, he only had 20 minutes to hear us present but chose to stay for over an hour to finish the conversation and then share his personal background with us all in a Q&A session. It was also encouraging that some of the executives actually followed up with our group members during an intermission to gain more insight on our thoughts and ideas.

The feeling of being engaged with top professionals in a company like J&J was intimidating and exciting simultaneously; even better was how genuinely interested and impressed they were with our ideas. The weight off of our shoulders when the whole thing was done was phenomenal. To finally cross the finish line for the project we’d spent so much time and effort, so many ups and downs and turnarounds, on left huge smiles plastered on our face for the rest of the day.

Private Thoughts: A Question of Motivation

Alex Rhodes, junior in Public Policy Analysis & Political Science, gains new appreciation for private sector profit maximization in the decision making process during his participation in the 2016 Sustainable Business Global Lab.

As a student studying public policy, I must admit I was quite interested in the implication of public actors in achieving the level of sustainability that I and many others had presumed Denmark and The Netherlands to have. I believed that private actors, or firms, were quite limited in their ability to widen the scope of their analysis of their own functions to incorporate or internalize negative externalities like pollution. I was taught that it is often only the government that can force businesses to consider the environment.

I was entirely mistaken.

Certainly the role of government cannot be overlooked. When we went to Aalborg University, several presenters fused sustainability ideas with application of public policy. We discussed a previous project one of presenters had worked on: a public biking path. We discussed how a cost benefit analysis of the path was created, how the argument for its construction was created and changed throughout the process of its enactment, and we learned how its effectiveness was statistically measured and analyzed. It was one of the most interesting discussion lectures I’ve attended in my undergraduate career.

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SBGL students visit SolaRoad, the first road surface that absorbs sunlight and converts it into electricity.

However, I soon realized I hadn’t given enough credit to potential of the private sector. I realized that under very unique circumstances, circumstances like those experienced by Kalundborg Symbiosis Eco-Industrial Park, firms can create radically innovative business models with sustainability and profitability to boot.

SBGL students on a tour of Kalundborg Symbiosis Eco-Industrial Park, an industrial network where companies collaborate to use each other’s by-products.

The Eco-Industrial park consists of a host of factories and firms that have assembled themselves in one location based off of one principle: their inputs are the same another’s outputs, or vice versa. That means less dumping of waste materials into landfills, less pollution from trucks transporting waste material to its resting place, etc.

But don’t mistake this park as being created to be “green”; I quickly learned after arriving that it was created almost solely for monetary reasons. Having only to ship outputs/inputs of a factory down a street instead of across a city means less cost to the business. These businesses just wanted to add a few more dollars to their bottom line. Surprisingly, similar to American businesses, the most sustainable businesses in the country I once recognized as one of the most eco-friendly countries didn’t prioritize the environment in their business model; they just wanted an easier way to maximize profits.

I truly believe that there must exist a catalyst to speed up the creation of unique circumstances that lead to profitable and relatively environmentally-friendly businesses. Perhaps due to their nature, businesses will always prioritize profits. They may just need to augment how they go about earning their profits. Perhaps the government can help them do this.

What to Expect from 2017 SBGL

In preparation for his 2017 program, Dr. Neil Drobny reflects on his experience directing the 2016 Sustainable Business Global Lab in Denmark and The Netherlands.

The opportunity to develop and lead the Global Lab in sustainability is one of the highlights of my teaching career at Ohio State.  And the decision to concentrate the experience on sustainable business practices in Denmark and The Netherlands was icing on the cake.

I have known for many years that physical, cultural and other factors in Europe have intersected to create conditions ripe for innovation and development of sustainable business practice.  The Global Lab experience was an opportunity to validate and observe what I had come to know only through reading and second hand information.  Similarly it was an opportunity to reinforce with students information that I had presented in the classroom.

During their time in Rotterdam, 2016 SBGL students met with representatives of Unilever to discuss the implications of sustainability in new product development.

The mix of visits to diverse business and cultural sites worked well together in conveying that sustainable practices are well integrated into everyone’s work and non-work lives.  We learned for example from Unilever, whose world headquarters in Rotterdam we visited, that an early consideration of all new product development is what the sustainability benefits and footprint will be.   If a new product idea does not score well on sustainability metrics, it is not pursued.

In Amsterdam we saw the world’s first (experimental) solar road, a roadway with solar cells built into it.  At this point it carries only bicycles and very lightweight vehicles, but there is every reason to believe that the technology will someday be incorporated into major roadways.  It was like visiting with Thomas Edison in his lab as he worked on the first light bulb

In Copenhagen we saw the benefits of sustainability-driven thinking in city planning.  In the older part of the city building height was limited to five stories and streets were exceptionally wide. With a latitude comparable to southern Alaska, sunshine is limited.  The wide streets and limited building heights enhance the penetration of sunlight in the urban core which is well-established as a key ingredient to overall well-being and productivity.  Today the wide streets help with accommodating bicycles and street cars in addition to automobiles and pedestrians.

Interior of Pilgrim Fathers’ Church – a church in Rotterdam where passengers of the Speedwell departed for America in 1620.

Seeing the robust construction and results of careful maintenance of a 600-year old church in Rotterdam underscored that in the region things are “built to last” – a key element of sustainability.  Considerable interest was also added by the fact that the church was where the Pilgrims stayed the night before they “shoved off” for their voyage across the Atlantic.

For 2017 we will build on the success of the 2016 program by adding a visit to Lund University in Sweden and working with visit hosts to fine tune visits in coordination with course material in advance of the trip.

Design Like the Danes

In studying the successful sustainability of Denmark and The Netherlands, Robin Iritz got a lesson in design theory with FCOB’s Sustainable Business Global Lab.

A culture of thoughtfulness sits behind every feature in Copenhagen, Denmark. The same can be said for Rotterdam and Amsterdam in The Netherlands. I traveled these cities in May 2016 as one of 25 climate-conscious Buckeyes. We observed innovative design at each carefully planned city corner.

In the US, sustainability is still securing its legitimacy as an essential consideration in our evolving communities. In Northern Europe, it’s always been in the culture. Our group visited seven influential businesses and universities with the goal of understanding how Europe continuously tops the environmental and social well-being charts. Put simply, what makes these guys so good at solving complex public problems?

It’s all in the design.

2016 SBGL students at Nordic Food Lab testing a grasshopper-based soy sauce alternative.

It seems as though Danish and Dutch cultures are focused on doing things absolutely right. Everything right. Objects, traffic patterns, personal interactions, all of it is designed with a specific purpose and function. Our group understood this at the Nordic Food Lab in Copenhagen where the principles of sensory experience, functionality, and reflection were presented as important features of successful product-service experiences. This kind of design theory can be applied to any product, service, and professional interaction to create a meaningful experience. At Nordic Food Lab, it was applied to distilling grasshoppers into a nutrient rich soy sauce alternative.

We saw design again in the rapidly developing island Amager in Copenhagen where sustainable architecture is absorbing population growth and minimizing the environmental impact of greater population density. We saw design in incredible works of art throughout the many museums we toured in our free time. Design shined from the steel bridges crossing the river and canals in Rotterdam. The bridges are designed to look like the ships passing through Europe’s busiest port city.

2016 SBGL students tour facilities at Amager Ressource Center (ARC) in Copenhagen, Denmark.

My friends and I spent nights in hotel lobbies trying to figure out how to make sustainability as attractive in America as it was in our host cities. After tossing around ideas of flashy advertisement campaigns and political calls to action, we realized that nobody ever “sold” sustainability to the Scandinavians. Rather, it developed there out of geographical conditions, availability of natural resources, and a culture of collectivism. To instill such values quickly in Americans is a lofty endeavor. However, I think that our constraints are changing as a result of climate change and social and political pressure. The changing environment could catalyze innovative technology and community development in such a way that we develop our own brand of sustainability. What American Sustainability will look like is up to how we understand and adapt to our unique challenges.

Understanding the European’s approach to sustainable design has taught me how to deconstruct a problem and build the solution from its parts. Their responses to ever-changing limitations are at once inspired, effective, and efficient. My time in Europe was eye opening and a total blast. (Did I mention how well designed the nightlife is?) I couldn’t bring the culture of sustainability home but what I bring back to OSU this fall is a new point of view and a cool group of peers who know what it’s like to glimpse into the future.

Cultural and Business Aspects – Week 3


Entering the last week, we had so many insights into the German market and how it functioned. Being on a team with students from India and America, we had no clue about how big trade shows are to the European market. During our interactions with various officials and some store managers, we realized that if our client had to enter the German market, they would have to take the trade show route. It was amazing to know that almost all the business in most parts of Europe happens through these shows, which attract almost a billion people every year.

When it came to business and dealing with clients or salesperson/distributors, we learned the hard way that communicating our needs in German was the first and most important thing. German businesspeople do not entertain any other language and are very picky about the way we approached them. We had to schedule prior appointments with them (which were hard to get in the first place), and then there was the expectation of communicating in German with them. In terms of the shopping habits of the German consumer,  it was evident that they gave the quality of the product top most priority. Also, they had a preference for “Made in Germany” brands. Having said that, they were extremely brand conscious and did not warm to or show interest in unknown international brands. With considerable disposable income, they fell into one of two categories with very little very middle ground in between: they would prefer to either purchase very expensive products or very cheap ones. Buying products that were priced in between was not a popular sales proposition.

We also saw one common theme across German cities. In spite of all the big brand presence in the market, small local brands were very prevalent among the average consumer, and they really favored such brands. These local brands were limited to their respective cities; it was hard to find a local Munich brand in Frankfurt or other cities in Germany. The market was very diverse in terms of the goods sold, and, unlike in the US, consumers were more inclined to focus on two or three big specialty stores for their non-food purchasing and mostly Aldi or a local market for their food shopping.

Overall we found the German market to be very different from others and a challenging one to enter,  especially if you are an unknown brand. However, once people see the brand and get a firsthand feel of the products in the trade shows, it is possible to attract the distributors and make a connection to enter the market in a very profitable way. Entering and sustaining the growth in German market is a marathon and not a sprint.


Our last free weekend, we spent in Prague.  Prague is probably my favorite city of all those we visited in Europe.  The beauty of the architecture and the old eastern European designs were really impressive.  More so than other cities, Prague had a very religious feel to it.  On the tops of the buildings, there were gold plated crosses or symbols of the Catholic/Christian faith.  The importance of religion when Prague was designed and how this beautiful city was literally built around the peoples’ faith is quite amazing.

Unfortunately, our hotel was a little off the beaten path in Prague.  We were about 45 minutes from city center by transit, which equated to a 25-minute drive.  Fortunately, our hotel was the nicest place we stayed during our whole time in Europe.  The accommodations included a tremendous breakfast buffet for the first time on the trip.  Our first evening in Prague, we went to an amazing Italian restaurant right on the river in the city center.  The weather was perfect for the first time in two weeks, and we had a very enjoyable meal.  After the meal, we went to see what Prague’s famous nightlife was all about.  The city had an energy after dark to it that Munich, Geneva, and Zurich lacked.  We were by no means out to get wild like some in Prague, but it was nice to feel the energy and excitement of the evening. There were many Americans and English speaking people in Prague that night which aided in the excitement.  The next day, we headed to a watch tower with breathtaking views of the city.  We hiked up the hill halfway and then jumped on a tram that took us up the rest of the way.  Prague was an awesome time.

We arrived back in Munich late Sunday evening.  Early Monday morning we departed for Ingolstadt to meet with Professor Matta and tour the Audi facility.  We learned a lot about Bavarian culture while we were in Ingolstadt.  Being a smaller town, there was a real sense of pride about being part of Bavaria.  Bavaria has the best school systems in Germany, as well as the best Universities.  Our cab driver told us that he is not German, he is Bavarian.  We had heard about Bavarian pride, but never really got to feel it because Munich is such a melting pot of a city.  Ingolstadt gave us the feeling that matched what we had been told.  The Audi tour was fascinating.  The Ingolstadt headquarters employs 50,000 people.  That is not a typo!  In a town of 100,000, Audi employs 50,000 people.  There is a huge sense of pride in working for Audi and driving an Audi. The tour of Audi was a first class experience. It was amazing to see all of the technology that is used to build one of those amazing machines.  Dr. Matta took us out for lunch after the tour, and we spent the remainder of the afternoon putting the finishing touches on our presentation.  All in all, it was an action packed last four days in Europe!

Working for an Indian Conglomerate

Growing up in India, the Aditya Birla Group (ABG) must have been one of the countable few companies I should have known about as a child. Tata and Birla names were often used synonymously with anything that was considered rich and grandiose. However, never once did I imagine that I would work for such a magnificent conglomerate as ABG in my first major business project during my MBA studies at the Fisher College of Business.

Living up to traditional Indian values, the ABG group welcomed us with impressive warmth and generosity. The team was accommodated in ABG’s guest house with exclusive chefs, cars and chauffeurs. We were given separate workspaces in their Bengaluru office and were accompanied by employees to every client location at which we had an interview. And, during work hours, the team enjoyed tea/coffee at regular intervals, served right at our desks! Seeing employees have group lunches in an exclusive ‘cafeteria’ area inside the office was unusual for my American counterparts.

The most exciting part of the business experience was working from a meeting room right next to Kumaramangalam Birla himself on the day of our final presentation!  Presenting our findings to such top level management as the VP of Consumer Insights of ABG groups and Managing Director of the Chemicals business and receiving their feedback and appreciation is an unforgettable first business project presentation experience. Thank you, Fisher and the GAP program, for giving me this wonderful opportunity!