A Summer in Sustainable Finance

This summer Domenick Bauer, MBA '17, interned at Rabobank. Read what he has to say about his internship experience: 

Tell me about your summer internship experience? Where did you work and what types of projects did you work on?
Over the summer, I interned at Rabobank. I was based in New York, as a part of their wholesale banking business. Rabobank specializes in providing financial services to the largest food and agribusiness companies in North America. With its roots as a cooperative agricultural bank, and 100+ years of experience in food and Ag, Rabobank is a source of knowledge and expertise, as well as financing for its clients. My internship was to work as a part of an ongoing growth effort within Rabobank around sustainability partnerships. One of the largest disruptions taking place within food and ag is that end consumers are demanding sustainable food. This means food which is produced in such a way as have a positive effect on the health of our planet, the communities in which it is produced, and the people who eat it. Through sustainability partnerships, Rabobank helps its clients, through advisory and financing, to meet these new standards. I worked alongside Rabobank professionals who manage client  relationships, helping these organizations identify means to operationalize their sustainability strategies and meet their sustainability goals.
What was the most valuable thing you learned at your internship?
The most valuable thing I learned was how to create buy-in around corporate sustainability. Sustainability can be a vague concept, and so in many organizations, there are some people who consider it insubstantial -- a fad, an obstacle , something in the way of getting the job of business done. Because my work focused on partnering with product specialists, relationship managers, and researchers throughout the bank, the ability to define sustainability with internal and external audiences was critical. At first, I would try to make a moral argument for sustainability – explaining about how much damage a certain business practice does to the environment, or how a certain food ingredient might contribute to the obesity crisis. This doesn’t work, because even though everyone agrees that obesity and pollution are bad, it’s not always clear how more sustainable business practices can translate to shareholder value. A more effective communication strategy I employed was to show the link between sustainability and commercial success, something supported by more and more research every day.
Did your summer internship experience change your thoughts about your career trajectory moving forward?
Absolutely. It showed me that sustainability is like any other disruption, it’s a new set of rules that businesses need to adapt to in order to survive. Like in all industries, most of the rapid innovation to meet consumers’ more demanding sustainability standards is happening at smaller, newer companies. In light of this, I’m even more interested in early stage companies with radically more sustainable operating models. During my work at Rabobank, I came across a company which produces real beef in a petri dish using stem cells and molecular agriculture. Another company which grows produce at hundreds of times the crop yield per square foot of conventional farms, using no dirt and no fertilizer. Innovations like these have the power to fundamentally shift how businesses operate, and as such have the potential to really move the needle on many sustainability issues. What many of these innovators lack is scale, so I’d like to work in some capacity which helps get sustainable startups the capital and guidance they need to grow to the point where they can challenge  outdated operating models.