A young boy in Cairo yearns for a cleaner view of the Nile. A geologist’s daughter digs for a meaningful career in the Louisiana bayou. And an immigrant’s son shifts his entire career to pursue a greater purpose.
Osama Mikawi, Katherine Huded, and Naveed Ahmad are now Atlanta residents. All of them are pursuing an MBA at Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business in hopes of changing the way the world does business.
“Business is typically about ‘quick and cheap’. Sustainability is about taking a step back and evaluating your resources,” said Ahmad, a second-year full-time MBA student and Net Impact President. “Here at Scheller, I’ve joined a community that creates positive change.”
The Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainable Business (“Center”) was the driving force behind Ahmad’s decision to pursue his MBA at Scheller College. Ahmad, along with Huded and Mikawi, sought a business school with a progressive curriculum, innovative practicum opportunities, industry-leading faculty, and a proven track record of preparing students to become leaders in sustainable practices. The three students expect to work in sustainability, even though it may not be a part of their job title.
“Sustainability is a competitive advantage. For me, it’s a philosophy woven into how I build business strategy and supply chain tactics, rather than a separate department or topic,” said Mikawi, a Sustainability Fellow and first-year full-time MBA student.
In fact, Mikawi believes companies may arrive at sustainability simply because it makes good business sense. Therefore, he is focused on identifying forward-thinking organizations that differentiate themselves—whether implicitly or explicitly— through sustainability. One such organization, he notes, is Etihad Airways, which conducted the world's first commercial flight using sustainable biofuel made from their own plants.
“The diverse perspectives of my fellow MBA classmates—many of them engineers—have provided a balance to my own background that further equips me to become a thought leader in sustainable business,” said Huded, also a Sustainability Fellow and first-year full-time MBA student.
The Center offers MBA students a Strategic Sustainability Concentration, an Innovating for Sustainability Immersive Track, practicum opportunities, and a Sustainability Fellowship Program in which Center-affiliated faculty mentor students on innovative projects. Ahmad, Mikawi, and Huded have all worked with some of Fortune’s most successful companies to create solutions that not only raise the bottom line but also introduce top-line gains.
“Sustainability can certainly be about saving the planet, but it’s also a matter of profit gain, risk mitigation, and addressing consumer demands,” said Ahmad. Stakeholders are increasingly demanding that companies provide data related to sustainability to better assess financial strength.
In fact, the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board recently codified international standards for sustainable business that they expect to guide investor evaluations of businesses. While “thinking sustainably” might be a culture shift for many companies, all three students pointed out that the financial results are exponentially beneficial.
“It’s better to be ahead of the curve. At least, you avoid fines. At most, you expand your customer base, develop closed-loop systems for generating profits, and reduce carbon emissions,” said Huded.
Katherine’s sustainability ethic transcends her professional life, as she cycles into Tech Square despite below-freezing temperatures this January. While Ahmad and Mikawi are equally passionate about driving change, they hope to influence business leaders toward sustainability from another angle: It just makes dollars and sense.
What’s next for these revolutionaries? Huded is working on a market strategy for packaging innovations, as well as a carbon and cost savings analysis for a fashion retailer that’s closing the loop on its products with higher recycled content. Mikawi is developing a waste stream analysis for Georgia Tech’s Facilities Management with recommendations for environmental, financial, and social impacts. And Ahmad will join Southern California Edison in Los Angeles this May as Advisor, Operational Planning. While these three students’ paths diverge after graduation, they remain connected as change agents who were shaped by the “sustainability hub” that is Scheller College.