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NYU Stern CSB Partners with Pfizer on Employee Engagement and Sustainability Initiatives

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In Spring 2017, two NYU Stern Westchester students, Prita Kidder and Nick Sinatra embarked on a project with Pfizer in collaboration with Professor Frances Milliken and the NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business (CSB). The project focused on developing a strategy for Pfizer’s Environmental Sustainability People Platform to help the Pfizer team understand how to best structure employee engagement and environmental sustainability initiatives.

As more and more companies embed sustainability core to their strategies they need to find ways to engage employees to prioritize sustainability. As NYU Stern CSB research shows, embedded sustainability programs have a positive impact on employee engagement and retention, and more engaged employees are generally happier and more productive.
For the project, the students set out first to understand what defined a best in class employee engagement program. They spoke with numerous Pfizer employees, as well as conducted external benchmarking through interviews with leaders at peer companies. “When I first went in, I thought that one size fits all with respect to employee engagement programs, but after talking to a number of companies, it was clear that each company’s individual culture and the way they were structured really contributed to how they structured their employee engagement programs” noted Prita. After conducting research, the students worked in collaboration with Professor Milliken and the NYU Stern CSB to develop a strategy document that included key benchmarking information, and recommendations for Pfizer. The students presented this to senior leaders at Pfizer including the head of supply chain and other representatives from across the business.

Prita and Nick have full-time roles at Gartner Research and GE respectively, and were newer to the field of sustainable business. This project allowed them both to see first-hand how complex sustainability is and how different companies are impacted by their sustainability initiatives.  “We learn the theory in the classroom, and why companies should worry about different sustainability factors, but when you get to work first hand with a company, you’re able understand how complex these issues are, and how they affect the broader organization.” said Nick. As part-time students, Prita recognized how unique it was that they were able to integrate experiential learning into their course of study, and found that the project gave them both an “opportunity to understand the inner workings of a company which is very valuable experience”.

Professor Milliken noted that the project allowed her to see course concepts from her Leadership in Organizations Class, such as the measurement of environmental sustainability, decisions about organizational structure and role allocation, brought to life in a practical way.

And on the client side, the project sponsor Tom Polton said, “The recommendations provided will enable Pfizer to advance the people platform in environmental sustainability. The project exceeded our expectations and the results and deliverables were outstanding.”

As the NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business continues to expand programming it looks forward to hosting more experiential learning projects to give students first-hand access to companies grappling with challenges and solutions to sustainability, and to help companies embed sustainability throughout their business.