Twenty-six students from around the globe attend the Graduate School of Business Administration’s (GBA) 3 Continent Master of Global Management (3CMGM) Program. The courses are taught on campuses in Belgium, India, and the United States. While this is all made possible by air travel, the carbon footprint of so much commuting became a source of concern for students, so they set out to plant a few thousand trees to mitigate the problem.
Planting a few thousand trees is no easy task when there’s masters-level coursework to complete. But as the students are training to be global business managers, they sought out a global management solution to solve the problem.
Antwerp Management School in Belgium and the Xavier Institute of Management in Bhubaneswar, India, have already hosted the students for the yearlong program. The cohort arrived for the last leg of their journey at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus in May.
As physically planting the trees was an impossibility, the group decided to partner with WeForest.org, a Belgian-based NGO specializing in tree planting. They created an off-shoot called WePlant.org. After sowing the seeds of the operation in Antwerp, they planted their first tree in India this past the spring. On August 1 the group will promote the program here in New York City.
The students mined the program’s three locales for unique regional responses to the initiative. Belgium had the NGO. The advantageous conversion of dollars to rupees meant more trees could be purchased in India, thus making India a logical place to plant the trees. The August 1 event will no doubt prove media-savvy New York as the perfect place for promoting the program. But the problem of global warming is hardly limited to three regions.
“Pollution is the same in any part of the world,” said student Aditya Prasad Kola. “As we are part of a global community we are obliged to clean up our mess.”
The trees will be planted on the Sirumalai Hills in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Kola, who is from India, added that as a developing nation, India has very high pollution levels, making it “a perfect place” for the initiative.
The way the program works is that students ask companies to buy trees from WeForest to offset their own carbon foot print. For each tree that companies buy from WeForest, WePlant gets a tree of their own. The trees cost about $1.50 each.
The students calculated that they produced 130 metric tons of CO2 emissions through intercontinental air travel. To eliminate their footprint, they’ll need to plant about 4,300 trees this year. After four years the trees will have matured and the footprint should be eliminated.
The students have already sold more than 750 trees, bringing the total number of trees to more than 1500 so far. The ultimate goal of planting 8,600 trees would create one full time job and three temporary jobs in India.
The students said that plotting out the success of the program fed into their coursework.
“Completely detached from the environmental aspect, is that by working on this project we’re also developing our skills and knowledge when it comes to fundraising and project management,” said student Ahmed El-Jafoufi.
All of the students said they expect the experience to affect the way they do business in the future.
“With governments cutting their budgets, it’s a good time for the companies to step in and help,” said student Phillipe Surmont, adding that it’s also good business. “If I have to choose between two brands and one takes responsibility for certain issues, I’m going to choose that brand.”