Posted by Katharine Garrett
My STEP Signature Project entailed spending two weeks in Copenhagen, Denmark and Rotterdam, Netherlands during May of 2016 as part of Fisher’s Sustainable Business Global Lab. While participating in this experience, I was able to explore both of these cities on a cultural level, as well as dig deeper into their focus on sustainable business.
While I was in Denmark and the Netherlands, I experienced a change in my concept of sustainability, culture, and global business. The Sustainable Business Global Lab (SBGL) examined how various businesses and industries incorporate sustainable practices; a topic which I had little knowledge of before embarking on this project. I initially thought that a business perspective would mainly focus on streamlining operations and ultimately improving bottom line profits. However, I quickly discovered the sustainability entails so much more. Corporations around the global, and especially in the two countries I visited, are really taking a look at how their practices can be altered to cause less environmental damage and provide greater resilience.
In addition to my assumptions regarding sustainability, I also experience a transformation of my concept of culture. This was my first trip outside of the country, so the change in culture was unlike any other travels I have done. I now have a greater appreciation for different cultures and languages. Having the opportunity to be completely immersed in another country instantly widened my understanding of how nations and people interact on a global scale.
My transformation in concepts of sustainability and culture was the result of many activities throughout the SBGL trip. While abroad, our group of 25 students visited ten different companies in order to see firsthand how sustainable practices were being implemented. This one-on-one interaction with native professionals was a fascinating way to learn about the material.
I started to realize that the view of sustainability in the United States varies greatly from that of Denmark and the Netherlands. Typically, Americans think that going “green” and attempting to be eco-friendly is the key to sustainability. In contrast, these Scandinavian countries are constantly trying to make their processes more efficient and productive, with less waste. In turn, this allows companies to be more resilient when faced with turbulent economic and environmental constraints.
Various cultural activities throughout the SBGL also contributed to my transformation of worldview. Being surrounded by a foreign language for the first time was very enlightening, and has instilled a new desire to visit other countries around the globe. I toured numerous historic sites in both Copenhagen and Rotterdam, an experience that highlighted how incredibly vast our world history really is, and how much there is to explore. In addition, it was interesting to see how other nations run their governments and how citizens react to different policies. For example, Denmark imposes extremely high taxes, but its citizens almost enjoy paying them, for they know it allows them to have a reliable social system and functioning government.
These changes and transformations have provided me with valuable skills as I move forward with my career. My new knowledge and perspective of sustainability will be applicable to future jobs that I hold as a business professional. I will be able to take the innovative sustainability practices I witnessed while abroad and help implement them within other companies. By altering my perception of sustainability, I have a greater appreciation for any business that is employing new practices to improve resilience and environmental impact.
A development in worldview and culture has proved to be a valuable asset to my personal goals. I pursued this Signature Project with the hope that it would propel me into even more future travels abroad and global experiences. I now have a new appreciation for travel and look forward to experiencing other cultures and languages.