Is Pursuing Business and Sustainability Too Idealistic?


By Sushmita Mukherjee, BBA ʼ17

Ever since I was young and first expressed an interest in the environment, I was told I was too idealistic.

“Life will get in the way,” friends and family said, sharing strong doubts that I would be able to pursue a career in the field.

As I grew older, this narrative grew stronger, and life did get in the way. I started putting it off. I said to myself, “One day I’ll do it. Just not now.” And in the midst of an arduous junior-year recruiting cycle, it was slowly becoming a reality.

But, in the last year, I have had some amazing experiences that have fundamentally shifted my attitude. And they both happened in Costa Rica.

I first traveled to the country back in May with 35 other U-M students to learn about sustainable development in a small country. In those three weeks, I fell in love with the Costa Rican culture and learned about how a country of just 4.8 million people can outperform large countries like the United States in sustainable policy and implementation.

When Ross Professor Michael Metzger approached me with the chance to go back to Costa Rica this November to speak at the ECOin Conference hosted by Earth University, I instantly knew I wanted to go.

But after attending the conference, I understood how much I needed to go.

As a junior in the Ross BBA program, recruiting with companies plays a big part of our everyday life. But my heart has never been in it. I didn’t really want to get into a “traditional” business career path, but was pursuing one anyway because the benefits outweighed the costs.

However, when I got to Costa Rica and listened to professionals from all over the world at ECOin 2015, I realized that I’ve been thinking about it all wrong.

You can hear more about my trip to Costa Rica in this short video

While we were there, we had the incredible opportunity to interact with and hear speeches from young Latin American entrepreneurs and established Government officials from all over South America. Their unwavering dedication to sustainable solutions to the world’s biggest problems was reaffirming.

As we talked about the intergenerational climate change challenges, I was reminded of the connecting link between all institutions and all individuals on this planet. Just because I was pursuing a traditional path, doesn’t mean I wouldn’t be having an impact.

I think this is the vital mistake many in my situation make; we tend to see things in black and white, an either/or situation. But in the complex wicked problem that climate change is, everybody is responsible – be it the investment banker or consultant or marketing associate.

We all have our role to play, either individually or within a team at our jobs, and the most challenging aspect is transforming the majority of traditional jobs to consider more sustainable solutions.

If I pursued something traditional, I wasn’t giving up on my determination for the environment. I was bringing it along with me.

ECOin 2015 could not have come at a better time. I came back to campus renewed with ambition to achieve my goals – without guilt and stronger, redefined purpose.

People will continue to tell younger generations they are too idealistic – but to those younger generations I say this: don’t lose faith in yourself. No matter what you pursue you always have a way to make an impact. The only way you will lose your passion is if you lose your self-belief.

Sushmita Mukherjee is a junior in the Ross BBA program. She traveled to Costa Rica for the ECOin 2015 Conference with Ross Professor Michael Metzger and classmate Sarah Perry. Sushmita is set to graduate in May 2017 and is hoping to pursue a career in strategy consulting.  

You can watch their ECOin 2015 presentation here