Universities form our future leaders and change makers. And that’s why they should lead the way, says Louise Kofod Thomsen – Centre Manager for CBS Sustainability at Copenhagen Business School. She’s on a mission to make Copenhagen Business School much more sustainable. The goal? To get more people involved in changing the world. Read this inspiring story and discover how to become a change maker yourself!
Thomas: Thanks for taking the time today Louise. I know you’re busy with the launch of the CBS Sustainability Centre later today.
Louise: Yes, we are very excited! Actually, it’s more of a relaunch since the centre has existed since 2002. But it highlights the fact that we want to put much more spotlight on sustainability here at CBS and explore how we as a university can live up to our responsibilities.
Thomas: Congratulations with that important step. Can you tell us more about the centre and your role?
Louise: Of course. CBS Sustainability is a research centre with a focus on a lot of different topics related to sustainability, e.g. behavioural economics, corporate social responsibility and human rights. My job is to define the strategic direction of the centre and make sure that we use and share the huge amount of knowledge available and strengthen the sustainability profile of CBS.
Thomas: Not an easy task I can imagine. How do you do it?
Louise: Well, it requires us to work on both the internal and external aspects. Internally it’s about engaging the management and the people employed here. But of course also the students. 23.000 people are studying at CBS, and they really represent an overlooked potential for change. Imagine the change we can make if we engage just a small percentage of the students!
Externally, we try to strengthen our relations with the companies and organisations that are sustainability frontrunners. This means that we have to look beyond the “usual suspects”, and work with a broad range of companies and organisations.
And we work with other universities in Denmark as well in our SDG network. I my view, universities are a bit behind on sustainability. And it ought to be the other way around! Universities form our future leaders and change makers and should lead the way.
Thomas: That’s quite a lot of tasks! You mentioned an overlooked potential among the students at CBS. Could you elaborate on how you see this?
Louise: I find it essential that we engage the students, because they can create a big push for change. And when I say this, I don’t mean that the students are not engaged, because they are. I mean that we as staff and faculty at CBS need to look towards the young generation, if we want to do things differently. That’s why we have just nominated the first batch of Sustainability Influencers: 21 dedicated students from different universities and educational backgrounds that will mobilize, engage and inspire their fellow students to act on sustainability.
Thomas: Sounds like a great and really impactful idea! Now, let’s talk a bit more about your own story. How did you end up working with sustainability here at CBS?
Louise: I took my bachelor’s degree in English and Organisational Communication here at CBS. But I wanted to do something more political. I went to China for a summer course on sustainable energy and infrastructure. And when I came back, I did my master in sustainable business development. This led to an internship at The Danish Chamber of Commerce in their CSR department, and I have been a part of the sustainability field ever since.
Thomas: Was it a change of direction for you then, the trip to China?
Louise: Both yes and no. It certainly sparked my interest in sustainability. But I have always found it important to do something that makes a difference for other people. In my first student job as a customer counsellor at the Danish Employees’ Guarantee Fond, I did pay-outs to people who had lost their job when companies went bankrupt. I could continue working for hours and hours because I felt that I did something meaningful. And I held on to that job for four years.
Thomas: We are almost out of time Louise. But do you have any tips for people that want to work with sustainability?
Louise: I think the first step is to take responsibility for your own job search – it does not happen behind the screen. Reach out to people and dig into all the various ways you can engage. Think about what makes you having fun and what you are good at. You will be surprised how willing people are to meet and talk about what got them to where they are.
A lot of young people are very concerned about the future, and whether they will land their dream job. They should not be! Ambition is good, but we all start somewhere. And in any case, I don’t believe there is such thing as the perfect job. It’s a gift to have the time to reflect about your life, values and priorities you have in a job. The time you take to meet new people and reflect about your own values and contributions during your job search will also make you a better employee.
Thomas: Thanks Louise for sharing your story and your insights. And keep up the good work here at CBS!
That concludes my chat with Louise. I hope you can feel the energy and inspiration I took with me. We need role models, and to me, Louise certainly is one.
Stay tuned for the next Impactful Superstar interview, we promise you it will be interesting!