Published: Feb. 2, 2015

As they hustled from one company to the next through San Francisco’s busy streets, a group of Leeds School of Business students mentally prepared for their next destination, where they’d have an exclusive opportunity to make valuable, possibly life changing, contacts at Facebook. This is what they signed up for: a breakneck schedule of three company visits a day for three days, getting to know high-level executives who might offer a handshake and possibly a lucky break down the road.

These 24 MBA and undergraduate students jumped at the chance to be part of Leeds’ inaugural San Francisco CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) Career Trek in order to get an inside look at the sustainability practices at Google, Clorox, Facebook, Salesforce, PG&E, Intel, Microsoft and Cisco.

“I really appreciated the focus on sustainability and CSR and it was a really unique opportunity to see inside some of the largest, most famous companies around…I made some really good contacts,” exuded Matt Gettleman, Leeds MBA ’15.

A New Career Trek is Born

Early last fall 2014, Dr. Mark Meaney, Executive Director of the Center for Education on Social Responsibility (CESR), noticed that there were treks being offered at Leeds in the areas of finance, marketing, entrepreneurship, operations and management – but none of them offered an inside look at companies’ CSR and sustainability efforts until he proposed adding a CSR “lens” to a professional trek focused on marketing and management.

With that, Career Development and CESR debuted the San Francisco CSR Trek January 7-9, 2015. With 12 MBAs and 12 undergrads, the trip boasted the largest number of MBAs to ever sign up for a trek.

“The Trek highlighted how some of the world’s leading companies are integrating corporate responsibility and sustainability into every business function, reinforcing the competitive advantage provided by CESR and Leeds’ emphasis on social responsibility throughout the academic curriculum,” explained Katie Connor, Executive Director of Career Development, who attended the Trek.

“We’ve reached a tipping point: What CESR offers will help students get jobs,” said Dr. Meaney, continuing, “The message to our students from every HR executive we met was clear: We will recruit you for your acumen in finance, operations, or marketing, but we may hire you because of your knowledge, experience and skill set in CSR and sustainability.”

Gracious Hosts

From the students’ point of view, they felt the companies went out of their way to host them. Salesforce, in partnership with the Leeds Alumni Office, even organized a networking reception so the students could meet CU alumni working there (over 100 alums!) as well as alumni from across the Bay Area. “It was the best networking event I’ve ever been to!” exclaimed Jeff Wahl, Leeds MBA ’15. He further explained, “The face to face is what’s really valuable. They see students asking intelligent questions and it opens a lot of doors.”

At Microsoft, students asked the HR representative, “How can we differentiate our resume?” The answer was simple: Just being there in person was the differentiator. Microsoft leaders generously disclosed their email addresses to students and offered to assist with their job applications.

“The main takeaway I received while in San Francisco was the surprising amount of CSR projects that go on behind the scenes that nobody ever hears about,” observed Dalen Medina, a Leeds junior studying Operations and Information Management. For example, some students were surprised to learn that sustainability is an integral part of Clorox’s core business – one of their four main strategic goals.

Sustainability: Becoming Pervasive

The tide is certainly turning towards more and more businesses demonstrating earnestness in sustainability, according to a recent article in The Guardian, “2015 Prediction: Sustainability will be written into every job description.”

“A new driver – the need to attract competitive employees – has added pressure for companies to broadly integrate sustainability into their operations,” states the article. Millennials, a generation eager to work for ethical organizations and make positive contributions to society, are seeking companies which will allow them to do just that.

“Learning about the different ways companies involve social responsibility in their work was especially valuable and helped me to better understand the many career options available in this field,” said MBA student Nancy Schoemann.

Another Opportunity

Due to the popularity of the San Francisco CSR Career Trek, CESR is partnering with Career Development to develop a Social Responsibility/Sustainability track within the Denver Career Trek this March. For more information about the Trek and how to apply, click here. For additional information, please contact Ann Richmond.