Sustainability Jobs and Internships for MBAs |

Sustainability Jobs and Internships for MBAs

By Pavel Kantorek

Updated July 29, 2019 Updated July 29, 2019

This article is sponsored by Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University. Find out more about its MBA programs

How can students apply sustainable MBA lessons to the business world after they graduate? Read on for examples of sustainability jobs and internships for MBAs, as well as stories of how MBAs have applied their skills to make a difference.

Developing Sustainability Skills for the Workplace

“Sustainability is not just a trend, it is a critical issue and we are all responsible for it”, states Layla El-Zein (pictured), a 2013 Rotterdam School of Management (RSM) MBA graduate who interned at Oxfam Novib.  El-Zein was aware of sustainability prior to her MBA, but has come to be more aware of its importance. While it is often viewed as an MBA specialization, many business schools – including RSM – incorporate sustainability into every aspect of their curriculum. 

It’s not just sustainability skills which can be applied when managing sustainability initiatives; general management and business skills are relevant too.  For example, general management skills helped El-Zein during her internship with Oxfam Novib. “The MBA taught me how to manage my work plan operations, manage people, and strategize,” she states.

Eiso Vaandrager, a 2009 RSM graduate who works as an investment manager at the venture capital firm e2cleantech, also applies the general management principles to sustainability work. “My MBA helped me get a broader overview of business in my industry – not only the technical part, but also financial and strategic skills.”

An MBA gives graduates the skills and knowledge needed to deal with the challenges specific to running a sustainable business. According to El-Zein, “Working sustainably requires a lot of investment and people have to think long-term, not short-term. We learned about the challenges, why businesses avoid sustainability changes, and how sustainability and business interact.”

Spotting opportunities for sustainable change is another important skill Vaandrager developed during his MBA program. “At RSM we thought about sustainability in depth – they made us aware of what we can do in this area – it was integrated in the academics.”

Networking is another traditional MBA skill relevant to sustainability. Not only does networking allow MBAs to increase awareness of their causes, it also gives them more resources for organizing sustainability efforts. An MBA also teaches team-building skills to help graduates make better use of what they obtain through networking.

“Through networks we can save money and that is business, using a critical mass to change the direction of the globe,” Vandraager reflects. He feels that working collaboratively creates a boom in value creation and adds value to human capital by allowing everyone to share their voice.

Sustainability Internships and MBA Student Clubs

Sustainability internships and MBA student clubs allow MBA students to gain experience and network. During her internship at Oxfam-Novib, El-Zein worked on a project dedicated to sustainably utilizing funds.  “The idea was to work smarter and be sustainable in the way you manage people, funds and solutions so that they can last longer.”

Sustainability work for a non-profit involves many of the same skills one would use at a for-profit business. “It is similar to setting up an investment model. The difference is that NGOs do not make a profit. Instead they use smart ways to invest in developing countries by teaching them ‘how to’ as an alternative to relying on grants.”

She states that the network she built, “was a great support system.”

MBA student clubs are another way students can acquire sustainability knowledge. Vandraager was the President of RSM’s sustainability club Net Impact, a club that allows students to implement on-campus sustainability projects, for example.

Joey Johannsen, RSM Sustainability Coordinator, and advisor to the Erasmus University, Rotterdam School of Management Graduate Net Impact Chapter states, “The RSM MBA Net Impact student leaders are driving the vital messages of sustainable development in concert with MBA faculty. It takes trained individuals, like these MBA students, to help individuals in every office of the operation see them, and understand how to work with them.

“This year’s team challenges the status quo, as indicated by their long list of programs and projects along the lines of sustainable value – social, ecological and economic. This in turn has provided relevant and impactful experiences for their classmates, filling their toolboxes and strengthening career portfolios.”

Sustainability Jobs for MBAs

Joep Elemans is the director of RSM’s MBA Career Development Center, where MBAs are taught that “sustainability should be a part of you that can be implemented in any position/career. Not necessarily as a sustainability officer, but in all positions.”
RSM has several MBA alumni who have landed in roles where they audit sustainability objectives, particularly those involving sourcing. Many, like Eiso Vaandrager, work at impact investing organizations which make investments based on social and financial impact, as well as financial return.

Other examples of roles into which RSM graduates have gone are:

•    Manager Sustainability and Supplier development at Royal Philips
•    Global Sustainability Services Network Manager at KPMG
•    Sustainability Manager at Wavin
•    Manager Sustainability Development at FMO Entrepreneurial Development Bank

Regardless of how you decide to contribute to sustainability efforts, an MBA can give you the skills you need, as well as opening up jobs and internships which allow you to further develop sustainability skills.

Find out more about the RSM MBA & Sustainability @ RSM


This article was originally published in April 2016 . It was last updated in July 2019

Want more content like this Register for free site membership to get regular updates and your own personal content feed.

Written by

Mansoor is a contributor to and former editor of He is a higher and business education specialist, who has been published in media outlets around the world. He studied English literature at BA and MA level and has a background in consumer journalism.