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Amanda Decker

Learning About Sustainability from European Leaders

by Amanda Decker, MBA 2012 Monday, March 21, 2011

The Wisconsin School of Business offered a new course to students this semester, Sustainability on the Ground and Around the Globe.  The purpose of this course is to bring students of different disciplines together to learn about decision making regarding sustainability, specifically focusing countries leading the sustainability movement.  I am a student in this class along with fellow first-year Nielsen Scholar Tyler Kettle and second-year David Shepherd.  The major learning experience for our Sustainability class was a trip to Berlin, Germany and Copenhagen, Denmark this past week over spring break.  During this trip, we were not only able to explore the culture and history of Germany and Denmark, but we were also granted the opportunity to meet with companies and individuals leading the sustainability movement.


UW Students at the Reichstag in Berlin

Our trip began in Berlin where we visited the Reichstag (above) to learn more about the history of German government.  We then met with four businesses in Berlin including:

This wide array of companies allowed us to gain an understanding of how sustainability is implemented at companies of different sizes.  My personal favorite was The Circus Hotel based on the founder, Andreas Wade.  Andreas backpacked across the world for over six years before nurturing the idea of starting a hostel.  He began the hostel around the time that the Berlin Wall fell, squatting property in former East Berlin and beginning a hostel with only a few beds. Today, Circus owns and operates a sustainable hostel and hotel, achieving a strong triple bottom line.

After Berlin, our group traveled to Copenhagen to learn about Scandinavia’s leadership in sustainability.  While in Copenhagen, we visited the Copenhagen Business School where we met with Robert Strand, UW Engineering Alumni.  Robert also has his MBA from the University of Minnesota and is currently pursuing his PHD in Corporate Social Responsibility at CBS.  Robert spoke to us about the difference between U.S. and Scandinavian businesses both culturally and with respect to CSR.  In addition to visiting CBS, we spent time with:


Nielsen Center Students Amanda Decker, David Shepherd, and Tyler Kettle in front of a wind turbine model at Vestas

Overall, our class’ trip to Berlin and Copenhagen was a great experience to learn about both European business culture and sustainability.  I personally believe that corporate social responsibility is the future and hope to apply my learnings to future careers.